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Stars

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Canadian indie-poppers Stars were looking to challenge themselves, so earlier this year the Free Press Summer Fest alumni played new album The Five Ghosts (their fifth) start-to-finish on tour — before it was even released. According to some accounts, they met that challenge. No surprise there, as Ghost's songs are among the best and most immediate that the Montreal-based band — singer/guitarist Amy Millan, vocalist Torquil Campbell, bassist Evan Cranley, keyboardist Chris Seligman and drummer Pat McGee — has ever crafted. Even with an extra reliance on New Wavey synths and drum programming, most of the hallmarks remain: The magnetic interplay between Campbell's Morrissey-inspired melodrama and Millan's sweet, coquettish coo; the elegant guitar-fueled melodies and chamber-pop flourishes; the lyrics about ex-lovers and self-recrimination. Sometimes buoyant, sometimes dark, songs like "Wasted Daylight," "We Don't Want Your Body" and "The Passenger" nod to the likes of Depeche Mode, Gary Numan and Blondie. And while The Five Ghosts is more of a quick hit than a slow burn, there's enough nuance and complexity to keep things interesting well after its hooks have gotten into you. "We're obsessed with the pop hook, whether it be a vocal line or a keyboard line or a guitar riff," says Millan, who is now expecting a baby with Cranley. "It's all about the hook. But it's never in a way that's irritating, hopefully."

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