Best tunes of 2012: #18 Stars “Hold on when you get love and let go when you give it”

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Well, hello February!

You might’ve noticed that I spent most of January in the ‘90s – my happy place musically and nostalgia-wise – but if you’re sick of that, I’m here to rescue you with a smattering of 2012. And you couldn’t ask for something better to lift you out of a funk (if the 90s were a funk) than this awesome, high energy number by Montreal-based indie-poppers: Stars.

“There’s been a lot of talk of love
But that don’t amount to nothing
You can evoke the stars above
But that doesn’t make it something”

If I am remembering correctly, Stars’ 2012 album, “The north”, was the seventh (or eighth) LP I bought after starting to collect vinyl again. In fact, it was one of the handful I purchased before I even had a turntable to play them on. This didn’t bother me at the time because pretty much every record I was purchasing around this time included a download card for a digital version of the album. So even though I couldn’t yet play the record, I still had a way of listening to the music I had purchased. And I listened to this album quite a lot after purchasing it. In fact, I remember listening to this album continuously for the whole train ride back from Toronto on my iPod shortly after its release (though I couldn’t tell you now, why I was in Toronto and why my wife wasn’t travelling with me that time) and perhaps this is when I fell in love with this very tune.

“It’s a pretty melody
It might help you through the night time
But it doesn’t make it easy
To leave the party at the right time”

“Hold on when you get love and let go when you give it” was the second single to be released off “The north” and it could very well be at the top of the list of my favourite songs whose title includes more than 10 words.* It became huge for the band, a dance club eruption. And though there are only hints of it in the lyrics, the song became a LGBTQ anthem, in part because of the video (which you can watch below). One of the principal songwriters of Stars, Torquil Campbell has said of the video: “I wanted to make a video that celebrated the following things: 1. being yourself, 2. being someone else, 3. being fucking fabulous, 4. showing up, putting on your heels and staying alive. Drag queens know a couple of things the rest of us choose not to know: you are who you imagine yourself to be, and you can be a star even if — especially if — nobody ever knows who you really are.”

The song, itself, is pure pop brilliance, spreading love wherever it is played, pop in the vein of eighties nostalgia but with 21st century digital production. It is an insistent dance floor beat, reverberating memories, strobe light heart beats, and dance floor crushes. The melodies inspire flashback shots of love and ecstasy and at each chorus, Amy Millan fills our hearts with joy and hope. Love comes in rushes and waves, sneaky kisses and cautious caresses. It’s indeed magical.

“The world wont listen to this song
And the radio wont play it
But if you like it sing along
Sing ’cause you don’t know how to say it”

*Honestly, I don’t currently have such a list but it might be something worth looking at. Surely, though, this song title is the longest amongst my most favourite of songs.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.


Vinyl love: No Joy “Motherhood”

(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: No Joy
Album Title: Motherhood
Year released: 2020
Details: neon violet vinyl

The skinny: Back in September, I made my first Bandcamp Friday purchase. For those that have not heard of this wonderful initiative, it’s something Bandcamp started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to help support independent artists by waiving their usual fees on the first Friday of every month (see more info here). So yeah, my first Bandcamp Friday purchase was the fourth record by Montreal-based, dream pop project, No Joy, that had just been released two weeks prior. “Motherhood” is an album that had taken me by surprise, winning me over with its sheer exuberance and joy in experimentation. The fact that the pressing on offer on Bandcamp was a lovely neon violet certainly didn’t hinder my decision to pull the trigger. And perhaps it was the purchase on vinyl and how good it sounds that helped to raise the album to the number four spot on my favourite albums of the year list.

Standout track: “Dream rats”


Vinyl love (revisited): Barenaked Ladies “Gordon”

(I started my Vinyl Love posts pretty much right after the launch of this blog to share photos of my growing vinyl collection. Over time, the photos have improved and the explanations have grown. And looking back at a handful of the original posts in this series, I found myself wanting to re-do some of them so that the posts are more worthy of those great albums. So that’s what I’ll be doing every once in a while, including today…)

Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Album Title: Gordon
Year released: 1992
Year reissued: 2017
Details: Black vinyl, 2 x LP, 180 gram Gatefold sleeve, 25th anniversary edition

The skinny: My original ‘Vinyl Love’ gallery on this record was posted back in November three years ago. In that piece, I blamed my pre-ordering of it during the prior summer on my friend Patrick, who is a pretty big fan of the Ladies and had alerted me to its reissue. I think it funny now that I had actually had to think about purchasing it. “Gordon” was a pretty big deal, especially in Southern Ontario, when it was released back in 1992. The rest of the world wouldn’t officially catch on to the four-piece from Scarborough until a few years later and by that point, I (and a lot of their other early diehard fans) had moved on. This debut, however, remains a classic and I had forgotten how great it was until I received this 25th anniversary reissue on two 180-gram discs in the mail. I feel like I’ve listen to these 15 songs more in the last three years than I had in the previous two decades. And yeah, I still know every word to every song. Every word. Every song. Classic.

Standout track: “Brian Wilson”

P.S. Those of you who are aficionados of early 1990s Canadian alt-rock might appreciate a photo I am planning on posting to my Instagram account tomorrow. Watch out for it.