Sharing a fondness for sophisticated soul and pop artists (the Smiths, New Order, Marvin Gaye, et al.), Stars was formed by Torquil Campbell and Chris Seligman in New York. Along with friends Evan Cranley (also of Big Rude Jake) and Amy Milan (who contributed to the soundtrack for the film Drowning Mona), the band relocated to Montreal. Its debut full-length, Nightsongs, was released in early 2001, followed by an EP, The Comeback, later that year. Besides playing with Stars, Torquil has appeared in films, plays, and television (including Law & Order and Sex and the City). Seligman has performed with several orchestras, including the orchestra for the Broadway musical The Scarlet Pimpernel. Before 2002 came to an end, the band headed back into the studio to record a sophomore effort. The soft-hued Heart was released to critical accliam in the U.K. before Christmas; Heart appeared stateside on the Canadian label Arts & Crafts during summer 2003.
Stars reveal an obsession with stylish '80s rock on Nightsongs; the most obvious evidence is the band's cover of the Smiths' "This Charming Man." But that doesn't mean the Montréal group's debut sounds like it's from that decade. Drawing equally from new wave and the sophisticated electronic pop of acts such as Saint Etienne and Momus, Stars make every note painfully romantic. Even the vocals make a song about "stars on the ceiling" or words like "motherf*cking" sound innocent and respectable. Several guest musicians and vocalists contribute to Nightsongs (including labelmate Kendall Jane Meade of Mascott), resulting in a chamber pop ensemble comprised of keyboards, horns, and strings. Positively charming.
AMG Score: 3/5
Stars - "Nightsongs LP"