Stars’ fourth album finds the Montreal indie quintet making war, not love. Where the twin vocal leads once playfully engaged, they now wrestle for sonic dominance, and the result is disjointing musical combat: Torquil Campbell versus Amy Millan, Broadway versus Shoegazer. Though the disc opens on familiar ground with “Take Me to the Riot” (whispered vocal knitting over ethereal synth and industrial beats), the battle then begins:
Campbell, who maintains a side career as a soundtrack composer, strikes with “Barricade,” a truly bizarre ode to schmaltz with title and tone that conjure Jean Valjean. He swallows his whisper and burps an ever-so-slightly off-key warble before adding his theatrical touch to “Personal” (a painfully dreary conversational track) and the title song (which recalls the entire Lost in Translation soundtrack rammed into six minutes).
Millan counterattacks with “My Favourite Book,” the album’s standout number, a plucky alt-pop piece complemented by violin. She, too, swallows her whisper, but succeeds in projecting an effortless and emotional mezzo, which she showcases in the rabble-rousing “Bitches in Tokyo” (a fist-pumping anthem) and “Today Will Be Better, I Swear!” (an uplifting promise to faithful fans). With that, Millan emerges the victor, but everyone would be better off if they could all just get along.
In Our Bedroom After the War