Any given Stars fan ought to find something to like on The North, whether it's the springy pop-rock song "Backlines," the gorgeous balladry of "The 400," the over-the-top dramatics of "Do You Want to Die Together?" or the grandiose mission statement of "Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It." As always, singers Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell bring distinct personas to the equation: He's the sort of self-styled truth-teller who can be achingly open-hearted or a bit of a cad (or both), while she's winsome but practical, conveying wounded nobility without fully disguising a distinct edge. Throughout The North, Millan and Campbell sing together often, most effectively blending their voices in the lovely album-closer "Walls," in which she answers his "Do you love me?" with a heartbreaking "What am I supposed to say?"
With so many sounds and styles to run through, The North takes a little while to unpack, and its thematic intentions are generally a little cloudier than on its greatest albums, 2005's Set Yourself on Fire and 2007's In Our Bedroom After the War. But, like all the band's work to date, it rewards exploration with moments that alternately swoon, seethe, swing and paralyze.
Over the course of twelve songs and a fully rewarding 44-minute running time, Stars sound fresher and more vital than they have in years. Stars’ compositions have always aspired to be equal parts enjoyment, enrichment, and drama. On The North, the delicious, stirring cocktails are the richest, most satisfying concoctions the north-of-the-border bartenders have served up since Set Yourself on Fire. Only time will tell if The North legitimately stands as Stars’ finest hour, but it’s evident right off the bat that this collection will forever hang around the top shelf.
Stars auf Tour:
09.12.12 Hamburg, Übel & Gefährlich
11.12.12 Berlin, Heimathafen
12.12.12 Frankfurt, Batschkapp