The Five Ghosts is the fifth studio album from Canadian quintet Stars. The band, an extraction of members from Broken Social Scene led by Torquil Campbell, continue producing their own brand of melancholic indie pop in this latest offering. The album sees haunting pop set against a backdrop of melodic guitar and electro beats courtesy of guitarist Evan Cranley and keyboardist Chris Seligman. The first single Fixed, an upbeat track, is the epitome of the bands sound. Laid back guitar and keyboard blend and are overlaid with the siren call of Amy Millan’s vocals.
Millan’s voice does take the lead in this latest effort and saves more sombre numbers such as the rather bland Changes from fading into pleasant background music. The opening track Dead Hearts sees Millan and Campbell share vocal duties amidst a melancholy background of violins and guitar. It is one of the finer tracks Five Ghosts has to offer, the lyrics setting you up for the whimsical pop fairytale that the album is, ‘They were kids that I once knew / Now their heart belongs to you’. Campbell’s voice comes to the fore in We Don’t Want Your Body an eighties styled electro number and one of the highlights of the album, more generically poppy and catchy than the mellow alternative sound evoked by the latter half of the album.
Campbell does lend his vocal talents to a couple of the more subdued songs, The Last Song Ever Written and He Dreams He’s Awake see Millan’s voice take a backseat. The result is just as powerful however, particularly so in the case of He Dreams He’s Awake, a beautifully simplistic and fragile electro laden track that makes you just want to lie back and listen. Millan is left to take charge on the more sprightly numbers found at the beginning of The Five Ghosts. Wasted Daylight is a sweet electro track that makes the most of the childlike and vulnerable quality of Millan’s voice. Neighbouring track I Died So I Could Haunt You follows this vein maintaining an innocent indie pop feel, although Cranleys guitar is given a more prominent role making the track sound more mainstream than any of its contemporaries.
The Five Ghosts closes with the excellent Winter Bones, a sombre yet fitting end to the album. Millan is entrusted with this final track and she does not disappoint, her voice delivers its delicately eerie quality as it has throughout, making this a hauntingly melodic number. The Five Ghosts sees Stars manage to create a pop album that turns its back on the standard formula and embraces the cheerful and the melancholy, the mellow and the upbeat, it’s perfect for those who love their pop but crave something different and original.