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Stars – The Five Ghosts

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Toronto band Stars has spent years crafting albums full of emotion, politics and love.  It’s now 2010, and the band have switched labels for The Five Ghosts, perhaps signaling a change in the band’s mentality, or at the very least, their dynamic sound.  Signing to long-running emo label Vagrant may not have been a bad idea in regards to exposure, but would such exposure exist on the merit of the music alone?

“Dead Hearts” oddly begins with the feel of a melodic Death Cab for Cutie song, with the guitar barely trickling beneath the alternating vocals of Torq Campbell and Amy Millan.  It’s a pleasant enough number, and one that newcomers to the band will surely enjoy, but it seems as the album begins to take flight that the group is already taking a rest.  “Wasted” similarly seems uninspired, as if Stars opted to craft songs in the vein of friends Metric; the lyrics even bear the mark of Emily Haines.

By the time you encounter “I Died So I Could Haunt You” you’re looking for some sort of extreme contrast.  The sonic barrage apparent on In Our Bedroom After the War (“Take Me to the Riot”) is no more.  Sure, the thick bass line definitely adds a brooding quality, but as the song builds towards an unknown climax, listeners will find themselves a bit unfulfilled.  Really, where are the drums here?  But, perhaps this is the direction the band has chosen to head, so we shouldn’t knock them for treading new ground, that is until you arrive at “We Don’t Want Your Body.”  Frankly, it’s a bit of a juvenile number, and where you want to find a bit of passion, you only get a little coy vocal from Millan.  Oddly, none of it really seems too bad, but at this point, it all seems bad in comparison to other works by the group.

Luckily for the band, Amy Millan is just incredible.  Lack of inspiration never seems to hold her back, as witnessed in “Changes.”  She practically carries the song all on her own, with, as usual on The Five Ghosts, very minimal instrumentation shining through.  You have to give her credit in the end, as her light definitely has a bit of shine to it, while the rest of this album seemingly fades into banality.

Still, there are some bright elements on this record to assure us all that they still have a knack for writing good hooks.  “Passenger” has this catchy little moment during the chorus that appears as part electronic, part vocal, and for whatever reason, it just grabs the listener. On “How Much More” there’s a bit of a ringing guitar to go with another great vocal Millan performance.  Back beats here give a little boost of energy to go along with it all, rounding it out to be one of the better tracks.

Not long ago I would have sworn by Stars, such was the quality of their back catalog, but The Five Ghosts just seems like an anomaly.  It doesn’t seem like a record within the character of the group I’ve gotten (or we’ve) to know for the last ten years or so. It would be wrong to call it uninspired, but you could easily say that this is nowhere near the band’s best work to date.  Hopefully, this is just a brief identity crisis, and one that will bring the band back stronger next go around.

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Download: Stars – Wasted Daylight [MP3]

New Tunes from Fergus and Geronimo

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We raved about Denton, Texas group Fergus and Geronimo after they won us over in Austin a bit ago, and now comes word that they have a new track out there on the Internet (via Transparentblog).  We’ve got to keep up our support for this great Texas act, and we also can’t help but admit that this is a pretty sweet jam, if we do say so ourselves.  For me, it has the feelings of psychedelia from the classic era, but with a modern spin on the vocal approach.  You can’t help but to tap your foot along as you let this song wind around you all day long.

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Download: Fergus & Geronimo – Girls With English Accents [MP3]

Show Review: Passion Pit @ Stubbs (6/18)

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Once again our very hard working photo lady Mary Rehak made her way out to Stubbs on Friday night for the highly anticipated Passion Pit show. Mary also got to check out the second show on Saturday so you can get her opinion on both nights. As always, she has some fancy photos to go along with her review. Follow the jump for both.

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New Tunes from Spectrals

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After lots of early hype this week, I decided to grab a hold of this over at Waterloo last night, and I’m grateful that I did.  I’ve been spinning the new 7″ from Spectrals all night long.  It doesn’t hurt that our faves Slumberland Records put the release on the streets here in the US.  For some reason it sort of reminds me of Camera Obscura smashing into Girls.  It’s got a little bit of a haphazard approach with that old 60s pop group twist.  It’s nothing short of enjoyable, so get on it.

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Download: Spectrals – 7th Date [MP3]

Quiet Company @ Ghost Room (6/25)

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Date 6/25/10
Location Ghost Room
Doors 8pm
Tickets $7 @ door

The Ghost Room on Friday night continues a great week of stacked local lineups with a headlining set by Austinites Quiet Company.  Fellow upstart and noteworthy bands Oh No Oh My, Royal Forest, and Courrier will all be joining the guys on stage.  Cheap music and good times.

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Download: Quiet Company – How Do You Do It [MP3]

Mumford & Sons On La Blogotheque

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La Blogotheque had yet another one of their rousing live sessions posted recently with a new video from indie-folksters Mumford & Sons.  The 8 minute long video features the band playing two songs in a back alley in Paris.  The highlight for me is a captivating version of “Awake My Soul” with a French language variation on the chorus thrown in to please an onlooking French fan.  A pretty comical exchange between band leader Marcus Mumford and a Frenchman about proper translation/pronunciation at the beginning of the video is also worth your time.  The Frenchies strike again.

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Download: Mumford & Sons – Awake My Soul [MP3]

Jenny And Johnny

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So word of a new project from Jenny Lewis and her singer/songwriter boyfriend Johnathan Rice has been spreading over the internet like wildfire today.  The group is going by Jenny and Johnny and plan to release their debut LP We’re Having Fun Now sometime later this summer.  I’m an avid follower of Lewis and her heart melting voice so you gotta know I’ll be picking this one up and playing it non stop.  First single from the group “Scissor Runner” is below.

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Download: Jenny and Johnny – Scissor Runner [MP3]

Love At 20 @ Mohawk (6/24)

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Date 6/24/10
Location Mohawk
Doors 9pm
Tickets $6 @ Door

Thursday night at the Mohawk is a nice lineup of up and coming local talent featuring a headlining set by Austin buzz band Love at 20.  Joining them on the stage are fellow locals Model UN, Milk Thistle, and Lean Hounds.  You’ve got a cheap way to discover some of the best new talent Austin has to offer.

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Download: Love at 20 – So Bad [MP3]

New Music From Family Trees

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Every once in a blue moon we actually get some decent stuff in the ‘ol inbox.  Such was the case when I got this sweet lil jam from up and coming Brooklyn band Family Trees.  The track is set to appear on the band’s upcoming 7″ Dream Talkin’ which is due June 29th on Father Daughter Records.

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Download: Family Trees – Dream Talkin [MP3]

New Music From Black Angels

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Austin friends The Black Angels just premiered this sweet new track “Bad Vibrations” earlier today on The Gum.  You’ll of course hear that droning sound we’ve grown accustomed to from the band along with a frantic finish at the end.  This new single will appear on the Austin groups upcoming LP Phosphene Dream due out September 14th via Blue Horizon.

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Download: Black Angels – Bad Vibrations [MP3]

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