Spun: Stars

By Garth Paulson

There is something rather contradictory about the term indie-pop. In fact, one could even call it an oxymoron. In its strict sense, pop is not so much a musical style but an abbreviation for popular, while indie is supposed to mean independent and synonymous with underground and non-mainstream. It would seem the result would be unpopular popular music. As much of a head scratcher as it is, indie-pop is a perfect description for the Montreal band Stars.

Their latest album Set Yourself on Fire is filled with songs to be loved by anyone. Yet, there is little likelihood of Set Yourself on Fire catching on any time soon with local radio stations. Maybe it’s too sophisticated for the air waves. Make no mistake, although this is pop music, it is far removed from the Avril Lavigne’s and Jessica Simpson’s of the world.

Where other pop groups pander to the middle of the road, Stars try, and for the most part succeed, at crafting intricate pop masterpieces complete with strings, horns, electronics or not repeating a chorus to death.

Possibly the only slipping point about Set Yourself on Fire is the lyrics. Anyone familiar with the band should be aware of the degree to which they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Though this can result in some powerful lines, such as “You were what I wanted/I gave what I gave/ I’m not sorry I met you/ I’m not sorry it’s over/ I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save” it can also produce over the top lyrics as on the album closer “Calendar Girl.”

Even with these odd missteps, Stars have created one of the better unpopular popular albums of the year.