Canadian indie rockers Stars head to Millvale
Today's a big day in Pittsburgh, what with the International Festival of Firsts and a gigantic rubber duck taking to the river to enthrall/terrify the masses. But later in the evening, one of Canada's finest indie rock bands will be setting up shop down the river in Millvale.
Stars have made Pittsburgh a regular tour stop as of late, and their 9 p.m. show at Mr. Smalls finds them touring behind excellent sixth album “The North” that just celebrated its one-year anniversary. It's a collection of catchy, heartbreaking, sometimes dark, always witty songs that rivals their best work (arguably 2004's “Set Yourself on Fire”) and gives singers Amy Milan and Torquil Campbell (one of the best interviews in music, by the way, unless you hate opinions and sarcasm) even more dramatic/romantic fodder. The two can sound like team members joined at the hip or quarreling lovers (though they're simply creative partners, thus demonstrating how good they are at taking these roles so convincingly), and his charismatic storytelling and her emotive singing work splendidly together.
“The North” gets off to a rousing start with train whistles and wheels rumbling on the tracks, before Campbell and Milan go on with their tales of youth, alcoholic deejays, and questions about how far one can stretch trust before it snaps. The lyrics are hilarious in spots, hammered home by Campbell's delivery, and Milan's sweeping chorus punches this thing home. Tender “Hold on When You Get Love, and Let Go When You Give It” has a bit of a New Wave feel and gets trapped in your soul, and once again Milan nails the chorus. “Do You Want to Die Together?” is one of Stars' classic tragic relationship tales. It sounds soft and loving at times on the verses, and then the bombastic chorus explodes, taking this song into the stratosphere. Sound morose? Actually, it's not. It's kind of sweet, in a dark way. This is just scratching the surface, and these songs should be a ton of fun to hear live.
By the way, if you check out the record on Spotify, there's an option where you can hear the band comment on each song, what they think of it, and some interesting facts behind the music. It's pretty fun.
Stars profile really started to rise with the aforementioned “Set Yourself on Fire,” their third album that peaks on “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” and the jazzy tug-of-war “The Big Fight.” “In Our Bedroom After the War” followed in 2007 (“The Night Starts Here” and “Take Me to the Riot”) are killers), with “The Five Ghosts” dropping in 2010.
Although a future Stars trip to our city seems probable, you don't want to miss a chance to hear the band drawing on the high points from “The North” and their great back catalog. It's a Friday night, the fall chill is here, a giant duck is in the river, so why not go to Millvale with your lover and die together ... in joy over Stars music?
Brian Krasman is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.