Vinyl love: Stars “Set yourself on fire”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Stars
Album Title: Set yourself on fire
Year released: 2004
Year reissued: 2012
Details: Black vinyl, 180 gram, repress

The skinny: Fresh off seeing the Canadian indie pop collective last night at the  National Arts Centre with the house orchestra as support, and where they performed the song below, “One more night”, “Your ex-lover is dead”, and others off this very album, I thought I’d spread some Stars love this morning. Released in 2004, “Set yourself on fire” is likely still considered the band’s high water mark, despite releasing five very fine albums since and still touring regularly to appreciative audiences. This album, along with Arcade Fire’s “Funeral”, was a big part of the reason that the world turned their collective ears to Canada and we had an indie pop renaissance of sorts for a few years at the beginning of the 2000s. This is big, bold, and beautiful sounding chamber pop (which leant itself well to orchestra accompaniment last night) and an album that was amongst the first that I sought out after starting my fledgling vinyl collection.

Standout track: “Ageless beauty”


100 best covers: #87 Amy Millan “I will follow you into the dark”

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…And speaking of Death Cab for Cutie… Here’s a cover by Stars vocalist Amy Milan of the standout single from Death Cab for Cutie’s fifth album, “Plans”.

The original was recorded by frontman Ben Gibbard by himself on guitar, using just the one microphone. The result is a quiet and lonely sounding number that is kind of morbid on first listen but is quite romantic upon further reflection. The idea that one loves the other so much that he or she would them even into death to keep them company is quite lovely. “I will follow you into the dark” didn’t originally chart very high as a single but has since become one of the band’s best-selling, still receives quite a bit of radio play, and has been covered many times over by various artists.

Canadian songstress Amy Millan covered it a mere four years after the original’s initial release for her second solo record, “Masters of the burial”. Hers is slightly longer than the original’s three minutes and markedly different in style and tone. A full band backs her. The use of banjo and lap steel giving it a decidedly old time country feel. Her soft touch on vocals is more upbeat than in Gibbard’s original but definitely lends the subject matter the weight it deserves.

“If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied
Illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you into the dark”

I am a fan of both of these. In fact, I refuse to pick a favourite. Thoughts?

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.


Best tunes of 2010: #7 Stars “Dead hearts”

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In my post on “Fixed” (Stars other appearance on this particular list at #20), I wrote about my mad search to find a physical CD copy of the band’s fifth album, “The five ghosts”, on the day of its release. If you’ve already read that piece and forgot what I wrote, I’ll save you the trip back and let you know that I finally found a copy. “Dead hearts” was the first song I heard when I put the disc in my car’s player for the trip back home afterwards. I fell in love with it immediately, which set the tone for the rest of the album for me. It is also why it is ranked so high on this list, despite never being released as a single.

Quite a lovely track, albeit a haunting one. The gentle jingling guitars, the lonely tinkling piano, the string explosion, and Torquil Campbell’s and Amy Milan’s boy/girl, push/pull harmonies all call to mind a fantastical world of a creative child’s imagination. I’m thinking Never-Never land territory here, a dimension where logic and reality hold no truck. The idea of ‘dead hearts’ for me is an extension of the lyric in Arcade Fire’s “Wake up” that talks about children’s hearts getting torn up as they get older and bigger, which in turn seems to be a reference to Ally Sheedy’s line in “The Breakfast Club”: “When you grow up, your heart dies.”

So through all the mists and softness of the song, I see a group of children huddled around an impossibly massive bonfire while fireflies flit about in the sky around them. The curiosity of the younger ones full to bursting, breathlessly asking questions of their leader, the elder child that has been out and has experienced the bad old world. “Tell me everything that happened.” “Tell me everything you saw.” His news isn’t good. But maybe it’s a warning with a side of hope. .

Yeah. The lines “Dead hearts are everywhere” and “They were kids that I once knew” sound to me like Stars are hedging towards hope. And that sounds beautiful to me.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.