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Hidden Gems: Stars – The Five Ghosts

Stars are a pop/rock band from Montreal most notable from their truly unique storytelling ability in their songs.

Masters of creating diverse and imaginative narratives through the use of their lyrics, each of their songs offers a door into a fairytale-like world, one full of wonder, heartbreak and other-worldly characters all soaked in deep-felt nostalgia.

The band’s fifth studio album, released in 2010 and appropriately named ‘The Five Ghosts,’ is just one such example of this group’s powerful ability to conjure up melancholic and mysterious images in the mind.

The first track from the album ‘Dead Hearts’ is perhaps the reason I and many others first fell in love with Stars – a powerful story and a definite tear-jerker of a track. The lyrics in this song describe an abstract or even poetic yearning for things once lost or forgotten.

“They were kids that I once knew… Now they’re all dead hearts to you.”

Followed up immediately by the striking track ‘Wasted Daylight’ the album then twists and turns through emotions quite unlike any other LP. Through optimism, grief, longing and relief, each track pulls more heartstrings than the last.

Putting on this record often feels like running away – moving through life out of your comfort zone and off on some mystic adventure – who knows what characters inhabit this new place.

The thing you remember while listening to this album in full is that old things end and new things begin – It’s always been my go-to album for those difficult transitional periods of life. Nothing else quite like this set of songs describes exactly what those situations feel like – a feeling familiar to everyone but one that no manner of words could ever describe – a feeling of mourning for the past while striving for the future – an album I will keep in my heart forever, cropping up at the most difficult times.

Alongside the album’s release, Stars premiered a six-part documentary about the making of The Five Ghosts, in which we get a peek into the production of each track. The most curious thing for me was their unusual use of synths, a tricky instrument to utilize on anything but upbeat pop songs, but something which really makes this album.

As lifelong childhood friends, all members of the band grew up in Toronto. I think something must be said for how this sort of friendship has shaped so many bands. A bond formed over a lifetime, people who have laughed together, cried together and shared the same sense of belonging. It all sounds very poetic, but you can easily see that this connection often produces some of the greatest and most personal music – take Joy Division, The Smiths, Saint Etienne, you see my point.  Bands with shared experiences often write the music which speaks to us most.

Stars understand the brittleness of the human heart – I do believe their music would warm even the most unfeeling soul – but don’t just take my word for it, I encourage you to do something terrifying; lay back with their record on and simply allow yourself to feel. In this album, Stars have surely captured perhaps the most integral part of being human – that you are alive.

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