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In Our Bedroom After the War

Stars

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Album Review

In Our Bedroom After the War may prove that Torquil Campbell would be better off orchestrating Broadway show tunes instead of playing the part of an indie pop frontman. The titular song that ends Stars' fourth album is a heavily layered theatrical production laced with birds singing and bells ringing as Campbell's relationship culminates with a choir of voices and a massive symphonic crescendo. Campbell and crew are striving for a bigger-is-better formula, watering down the majority of their rock sensibilities with heavily layered chamber pop and this makes for a mixed bag. While some of Stars' best songs appear on this record, others are performed with such an overstated bravado that it renders them too sour to digest. "Personal" is a character-driven melodramatic ditty that chronicles a protagonist who places a newspaper ad and is stood up because she is too obese. Two schmaltzy piano ballads feature Campbell delivering his best imitation of Morrissey covering Elton John, in a manner of campy crooning that could easily be interpreted as pomposity. With the exception of those decadent stinkers, and a few mediocre numbers, Campbell and Amy Milan churn out some of their best work and harmonize soothingly throughout. One of their most instantly catchy singles "Take Me to the Riot" capitalizes on a snappy hook vaguely reminiscent of Ned's Atomic Dustbin's "Grey Cell Green," and sits well alongside the candy-covered Rhodes and orchestral flavored breakbeat of "My Favorite Book," which could fit on a greatest-hits record by the Cardigans. The themes of sweet, sweet lost heartbreak are still evident, and the enhanced sheen makes the material sound more like contemporary easy listening music than ever. Since the group is on the Arts & Crafts label (home to Broken Social Scene), they can still be described as indie, but they're just barely holding on to that credibility. While it wouldn't be surprising to hear Set Yourself on Fire while shopping at Urban Outfitters, this album seems ideal for The Gap. As a whole, the band sounds tighter than ever, and if they continue down this road, and keep inflating their production like a balloon, there's a danger that they could easily go pop. Until then, keep your head up, there's no need to reach into their back catalog just yet. [Also released with bonus tracks.]

Biography

Formed: 2001 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Sharing a fondness for sophisticated soul and pop artists like the Smiths, New Order, and Marvin Gaye, vocalist Torquil Campbell and keyboardist Chris Seligman formed Stars in Toronto. Along with friends Evan Cranley (also of Big Rude Jake) and Amy Millan (who contributed to the soundtrack for the film Drowning Mona), the band relocated to New York City before returning to Canada, this time settling in Montreal. Their debut full-length, Nightsongs, was released in early 2001 on Le Grand Magistery,...
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In Our Bedroom After the War, Stars
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