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Set Yourself On Fire

Stars

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Album Review

The artwork for Stars' Set Yourself on Fire is eye-catching and dramatic, like a protest painting or Keith Haring subway drawing. And that's before you find the inside shot of a woman in a ski mask and little else, contemplating a flaming hand torch. The art direction's boldness complements the maturity in Stars' music, where nothing's just indie pop and string arrangements sound as perfect as the keyboards. Vocalists Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan enunciate every word with careful precision, and they sing of remembered high-school romances, dead ex-lovers, and drunk current ones in basic but powerfully evocative language. It's a twentysomething life, told in short story form. In opener "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead," Campbell and Millan's characters don't rekindle their relationship, but they don't apologize for its end, either. "I'm not sorry I met you," they harmonize. "I'm not sorry it's over/I'm not sorry there's nothing to save," and the song's strings and brass build to a surging outro that's the wordless acknowledgement of everything they had. The title track is augmented by strings of its own, keening dizzily in the background of an undeniable electronic pop pulse, and "What I'm Trying to Say" does the same thing, but replaces the strings with electric guitar. "Reunion"'s near-perfect guitar pop brings to mind Spoon, and mid-album mates "Sleep Tonight" and "First Five Times" have different views on the intent of (and locations for) modern romance. The songs blend trumpet, keyboard effects, acoustic guitar, and electronic and analog percussion for an intelligent pop sound that doesn't need bells and whistles to be unique. Stars rely instead on melody, charisma, and lyrics as sharp as any modern essayist, and it's all they need to sell the quiet grandness of Set Yourself On Fire.

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,...
Full Bio
Set Yourself On Fire, Stars
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