After spending over two decades together, Stars’ ninth album – and first in five years – ‘From Capelton Hill’ finds the Montreal indie rockers discussing the inevitability of mortality while celebrating the joys that make life worth living, with co-vocalist Torquil Campbell saying: ‘I guess what ‘From Capelton Hill’ means to me is from memory, from the past, from a place that seems permanent but isn’t, and I think that that sense of impermanence is a big part of what’s in the record.’
‘Palmisting’ opens the album with pieces of dialogue about angels from the 1964 film ‘Seance on a Wet Afternoon’ before Torquil opens up about grief, bereavement and loneliness against a backdrop of synths and stop-start strings: Won’t you tell me how I’m supposed to carry on right now?’ This comes after observations about how ‘the indigo sky turned to fire than she gave in to desire’ – giving the tale an injection of tragic romance. ‘Pretenders’ follows with more potent power-pop melodies as Amy Millan breezily tells the subject to ‘Turn your face towards the sun, because the sky’s a hundred shades of honey’ before then singing with Torquil in wistful unison that ‘We made our bets on being young forever’. ‘Back to the End’ is also a heartbreaking duet that appears to be Stars’ take on the end of the world (or at least of a relationship): ‘Nothing I say can never make it the same again and no song I sing will bring it back to that day again’.
Things take a dark and eerie turn on ‘That Girl’ with its Anna Calvi-meets-Patrick Wolf macabre folktale stylings and hints of addiction – ‘I don’t want to eat’; ‘It’s just the truth, I hate to say, embarrassed by the weakness but I just stay’. ‘Build a Fire’ may also tackle the apocalypse but has the defiant message of if the world has to be on fire, at least we can go out dancing, while the title track finds Torquil delivering a beautiful ode to companionship over faltering piano: ‘I told you we were here to fight, I told you we were here to sing. I told you we were here to keep each other company. Poignant storytelling and unforgettable characters have always been a key part of Stars’ sound and this continues on ‘To Feel What They Feel’ as Amy and Torquil discuss people whose lives are falling apart: ‘Every city is a prison now, every love song is a dirty lie’.
‘If I Never See London Again’ has memories of England’s capital city – including landing at Heathrow – being delivered against glitchy synths, while ‘I Need the Light’ has ‘Tunnel of Love’-era Springsteen vibes as Amy explains she’s seen the light before proudly declaring: ‘We brought back the fight again, because the dream’s alive’. The album comes to a close with the poetic and tender ‘Snowy Owl’, an acoustic piece about reconciliation in a relationship as time goes on: ‘You don’t look the same, you look older. Hold me close to you, it’s getting colder.’
Beautiful, bittersweet and inevitably brilliant, ‘From Capelton Hill’ is a melancholic and melodic album about all of life’s foibles that will keep you warm in even the coldest moments.