On their sixth studio album, Montreal’s indie synth-pop ambassadors Stars show some pride in their homeland and in their musical repertoire. With the help of ATO on this side of the border, Stars combine what they do best: moody synth-rooted dance songs and sugary indie pop. The album starts with the quote “The only way I see this happening is in an extended ride North,” said by Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, and Stars gets the trip started with a dance party. “The Theory Of Relativity” is full of that dark synthetic buzz and a sway-inducing drum beat. Torquil Campbell takes the reins on the track, with Amy Millan’s lithe voice making an appearance in the background. She shines on her own on second track “Backlines,” her sugary sweet singing coexisting with the violins that come in on the bridge. Campbell returns to microphone duties on title track, a song with a touch of surf-pop warmth though its lyrics speak of winters in Canada (“It’s so cold in this country/You can never get warm”).
The band’s Smiths/Morrissey influence comes in strong on “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It,” and “Through The Mines” features a softly strummed acoustic guitar backbone, setting the perfect setting for Millan’s gorgeous falsetto performance on the chorus. The album sees a back and forth between Campbell’s and Millan’s vocals, but they come together and split the job on the duet “Do You Want To Die Together?”, a swooning, morbid Doo-wop ballad straight out of the 1950s. “Lights Changing Colour” finds Millan on leading vocals again, sounding coy and quietly seductive. “The Loose Ends Will Make Knots” is another duet, an eerily sweet love song and a particularly strong track because of the way Campbell’s voice blends with Millan’s, especially on the line “I just want your past/I just want you now.”
The topic changes from love to politics when Campbell sings on “A Song Is A Weapon,” a protest song done entirely in Stars fashion. Millan’s “Progress” gives us a dance break before “The 400,” Campbell’s sorrowful piano ballad on which Millan joins at the chorus and repeats, “It has to go right this time.” That sad note carries over onto the closing track “Walls,” ending the album on love and another duet with Campbell asking, “But do you love me?” and Millan answering in gut-wrenching honesty, “What am I supposed to say?” Both Campbell and Millan shine on their own, but the album’s stronger tracks happen when these two team up together.