album reviews

The Five Ghosts
Vagrant (2010)

Kindred spirits: Saint Etienne, Belle & Sebastian, Amy Millan

Stars' latest album, "The Five Ghosts," finds the Toronto band on a mellower, less dynamic bent. But what emerges from the sparse, laid-back fuzz is Amy Millan's entrancing voice. She has always played the dreamy counterpoint to Torquil Campbell's more direct voice, but here the melancholy music suits her vocals beautifully.

Nowhere does Millan sound more wistful than on the song "Changes." Its faraway-sounding tone is supported by her sad, regretful coo. Her pouty style is balanced by the blurry instrumentation on "How Much More," and on "I Died So I Could Haunt You," she and Campbell overlay their ghostlike croons to climax in a sedate whirl.

Although "Ghosts" sounds less dramatic than the group's earlier material, its dreamlike vibe is usually successful, faltering only when it breaks from the haze. The repetitive, uptempo "We Don't Want Your Body" is jarring. Campbell sounds almost robotic as he spits out nearly spoken lyrics, and Millan's fast choruses sound like a light dance track. Luckily, the rest of the album remains mellow, showing that Stars shine brightest when entranced by reverie.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 24 September 2010
.: the Five Ghosts on