Friday, July 27, 2007

Reviews:: Stars In Our Bedroom After the War (revisited)

I've been giving the new Stars record - In Our Bedroom After the War - a lot of listens over the last few weeks. When The Night Starts Here was leaked out, it felt a bit rehashed and I wondered if the Stars were out of fresh ideas. After the first listen of the record I was left a bit underwhelmed. But, the Stars are a band that warrants a grain of salt and over the last few weeks, I've really started enjoying the record, but in a completely different way than I expected.

There are probably a few reasons for my initial thoughts; they have some great songs (Take Me to The Riot and Window Bird for example), but they don't stack up to the best Stars songs that I've listened to hundreds of times. Couple that with the songs that I'm not into (like My Favorite Book, which is a little too adult-contemp for me) and way more songs that I needed to really listen to before they clicked and after a few passes I was a bit let down (especially when people were deeming this a masterpiece within minutes of the leak and I couldn't see how you could arrive at that snap judgment).

Twenty listens later, it has clicked and I see that the Stars are stretching their limits and growing as a band. Personally, I think the reason for this is Torq. He found his stride and developed a much more adventurous vocal range on the last Memphis release (A Little Place in the Wilderness). I can't imagine him breaking out the disco falsetto on The Ghost of Genova Heights or the musical theatre solo on Barricade (with perfect piano / accordion support) without that time alone. These songs show how strong he can be as a front man.

In fact it's that release that made me wonder about this record. I know "it's a different band man", but the songs from his "other" record are more emotional and catchier than the songs on the Stars release, so at times I find that Milan's increased vocal presence to be distracting. I know the Stars rely on the interplay of their voices, and it is still amazing - like on Midnight Coward - but I think my initial sadness was because some of the sounds they come up with are too similar to the tracks on the Memphis record. The breathy interplay on the interesting Personal is nice, but Torq's emotional song for his wife (The Night Watchmen) treads on the same ground and is more powerful.

This isn't a bashing of Milan, as I still really enjoy her voice - she takes the reigns nicely on Window Bird and is as charming as ever with her sugary sweet delivery on Today Will Be Better, I Swear! - the record just took me longer to get into than any other Stars release. There weren't any one listen singles, and looking at it now, that's probably a good thing. It proves the band is maturing and taking more risks. Avoiding the easy trap of reworking synth riffs and trying to find Elevator Love Letter v 2.0 would have been a cop out, and I'm glad the band pushed themselves. Trying to imagine the Stars evolving from that pop ditty into the orchestral title track that closes the album would be hard, but it makes the transition that much more impressive.

MP3:: Take Me to the Riot

Posted at 1:10 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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