The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Seeing ‘Stars’ at the Jefferson Theater

Canadian indie pop band Stars brought its month-and-a-half-long North American tour to the Jefferson Theater Tuesday. The tour is celebrating the band’s newest offering The North, its sixth full-length album since its 2001 debut.

Stars is well-known in their native Canada: The North hit number five on Canadian charts. But the band is still relatively obscure in the States, despite past tours with artists such as Broken Social Scene and having music featured on shows such as The O.C., Gossip Girl and Chuck. Stars is heavily influenced by The Smiths, New Order and Momus.

The North, released Sept. 4, is the band’s best album to date. The group has found its niche and with it a verifiable “sound,” so to speak — in their case, layers of carefully constructed, almost symphonic instrumentation coupled with the soft, insistent vocals of lead singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan. The five band members have done a wonderful job staying in tune with each other as individual musicians, and the polished feel of the album reflects their mutual appreciation for each other’s strengths as artists.

The North has a more upbeat feel than the band’s previous albums. Melancholy songs such as “Dead Hearts” from The Five Ghosts (2010) and “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” from Do You Trust Your Friends? (2007) pop into my mind when I think of Stars. Tracks from The North, however, have a decidedly happier tone.

That is not to say the band’s new album is less multi-dimensional in any way; after all, sometimes you’re just in the mood for something upbeat. In the case of The North, the lack of the darker undertones only means the band used fewer minor chord progressions, not that the tone of the lyrics has changed. For instance, “The Theory of Relativity” from The North has a sanguine sound, but the lyrics are no more optimistic than any of the band’s previous songs: “But it can’t be ‘93 sadly cause I wish it could forever / you call it luck, I call it tragedy,” Campbell croons.

The show on Tuesday was one of the best indie concerts I’ve ever been to. The first opener, California Wives, was everything that an opening band should be: upbeat, soothing, cute and grateful. Not to mention that the lead singer had a baby blue guitar — adorable. The next band to play, Diamond Rings, was a strangely 80s-inspired electro-pop band that I started off hating and ended up loving. Like the first band, they were energetic and fun, and although their music was nothing like the style of Stars, it was actually a nice respite from the smoky-voiced, plinky guitar indie-pop.

The main event was everything I (and the other approximately 100 people in attendance) was hoping for. Stars seemed genuinely happy to be playing their most popular songs, and because Charlottesville was one of the first stops on their tour, nothing seemed campy or cliché; the material was just as new to them as it was to us. Everyone in the audience knew all the words to every song, and the whole setting was appropriately intimate for the type of music they make.

Regardless of whether you know the band’s earlier music, I suggest you give The North a listen. Stars is a wonderful band, and let’s be honest — there’s always room for something different on your iPod.


Latest Podcast

Today, we sit down with both the president and treasurer of the Virginia women's club basketball team to discuss everything from making free throws to recent increased viewership in women's basketball.