Plumbiferous Media

The Five Ghosts – Stars

Jun 27th 2010
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The Five Ghosts - StarsStars
The Five Ghosts
Score: 67

The Five Ghosts is the newest release from Broken Social Scene subset, Stars. The album, perhaps best described as indie-electronic, maintains a very simple sound, punctuated by moments of crystallization. This style is, in the end, both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness, as the level of simplicity does, at times, totally overwhelm other positive aspects of the album.

Stars frontman Torquil Campbell shares vocal duties on The Five Ghosts with bandmate Amy Millan, each providing their own approach to the album. Campbell has perfected the light, somewhat breathy tone in which he sings each resounding line, complemented by Millan’s elegant voice. The duets the two perform on tracks such as the album’s opener, “Dead Hearts,” joyfully draw the wide breadth of the music, creating an expanse of simultaneously rich and uncluttered sound.

Accompanying Campbell and Millan on The Five Ghosts are a wealth of sounds, primarily synthesized. Everything blending together well is an understatement, and the music generally accompanies the stories of The Five Ghosts. Yet even still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that not much is going on. The band clearly knows what its doing, as there are numerous points in the album that entirely capture your attention, but there just isn’t that much unique content, and even the best of it isn’t truly excellent.

The lyrics of The Five Ghosts are well-matched to the soaring sound of the album, evoking the same ethereal tones. Whether Campbell is telling the story of “The Last Song Ever Written,” singing “There was a strange goodbye outside the station / There was a letter three weeks later in the mail,” or Millan is singing the images behind “The Passenger:” “Here comes another strange town / Here comes another breakdown / And you can run forever / They’ll catch you now or never,” the words of The Five Ghosts create a uniquely colorful musical world. While the line “We’re going to sing a song without words / And a tune you haven’t heard in a long time” probably isn’t strictly accurate, it does an excellent job of describing the feeling evoked by Stars’ music.

The Five Ghosts‘s biggest fault is that Stars frequently holds onto sections of tracks for far too long. As important as some lines are to a track, it’s hard to justify repeating them four or more times in a row. The problem also plagues non-lyrical elements, the best example being “He Dreams He’s Awake.” The track slowly builds through Stars’ entire dynamic range, but takes so long to climax that the final, fully developed seconds of the track simply aren’t enough to warrant the previous few minutes.

The Five Ghosts may not be perfect, but it is still a skillful demonstration of the band’s creativity and style. Between simple but compelling melodies and well-sung and interesting lyrics, The Five Ghosts comes together well. The Five Ghosts suffers, however, from a musical over-simplicity that prevents it from being as interesting as it could be. At its best, the album is genuinely intriguing – but in weaker moments, it tends to fade into the scenery.

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