Vinyl love: Stars “From Capelton Hill”

(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: From Capelton Hill
Year released: 2022
Details: Limited edition, gold foil

The skinny: In just a few short days, we should start to see some end of the year posts on these very pages, counting down my favourite albums of the year. And while (spoiler alert) the latest from Montreal-based indie pop quintet, Stars didn’t quite make the cut for 2022, it’s still a very fantastic record that is definitely worth your time. I’ve been following the group since they released the very fine “Set yourself on fire” back in 2004. Though that one is still considered by many to be the band’s high water mark, I am of the firm opinion that they have released many great albums over the years. Their 9th finds them doing exactly what they do best, literate and romantic indie pop, sometimes danceable and always immersible. I pre-ordered this gold foil, limited edition pressing off of the Last Gang Records’ (the group’s label) web store on the back of the title track and of course, the song below and have not been disappointed with the rest.

Standout track: “Pretenders”


Playlist: New tunes from 2022, part two

Happy Sunday!

And welcome back to this little thing I do every three months, adding twenty five new tracks to a multiple part playlist that soundtracks each year as it passes. If you missed part one for the first three months of 2022, you can find it here.

This year’s first quarter was very much same-same, continuing the pandemic trend that I’ve been living for what seems like an eternity, but in contrast, the last three months have been anything but status quo. The Ontario government continued with its plans of reopening, the lifting of restrictions and mandates, and the people have been slowly dipping their toes back into society, yours truly, a little more slowly than most.

In May, we discovered a new meteorological term called ‘derecho’ firsthand. The fast moving cluster of storms tore a swathe through Ontario and Quebec, travelling more than 1000 km from Windsor to Quebec City in an afternoon and wreaking havoc* along the way. Personally, I didn’t see any damage to our own property and our power was only out for a mere fifty-two hours. I consider myself very lucky, given the other stories I’ve heard and the photos of damage that I’ve seen.

Then, at the end of June, I saw my  first piece of live music in more than two and a half years and as serendipity would have it, the first headlining band that I got to see was the same as the last that I saw before the start of the pandemic. Of course, I instantly remembered why I loved going to shows and got over my initial anxiety of hanging in the crowds again. Over the last week or so, I’ve made a handful of returns to the biggest local music festival, Ottawa Bluesfest, and I am intending on returning to the final night tonight. (The National! Yes!)

Of course, through all this, I’ve been doing my darnedest to keep up with all the new releases and finding my favourites amongst those. So without further ado, I’ll present twenty five new tunes that have helped keep me going over the second three months of 2022. Highlights include:

      • I’ve heard many say that the new album by Spiritualized is the best thing Jason Pierce has done since his 1997 album, “Ladies & gentlemen we are floating in space”… well… “Always together with you” sounds like a sequel to the title track off that iconic album
      • At one minute and twenty-four seconds, “Who’s in the dark” by Jeanines is a pop gem that feels way too short, but fortunately/unfortunately, that’s this band’s M.O.
      • “Tap” is an apt name for this mellow, toe-tapping indie folk ear worm by Tomberlin
      • I couldn’t help myself but include both parts of “The lightning” by Arcade Fire because they fit so nicely and juxtaposed against each, they feel like a perfect revisit to their early days
      • “Toast” is just pure fun bedroom pop by Fanclubwallet, a young artist who is apparently local, living right here in Ottawa
      • Just Mustard is haunting and harrowing on “23”, sounding not a little like the gothic dream pop of 90s rockers, Cranes
      • With its ominous bassline and frittering synth washes, “Shotgun, the advance single off Soccer Mommy‘s third album makes for a great outro

Here is the entire playlist as I’ve created it:

1. “Rubberneckers” Christian Lee Hutson (from the album Quitters)

2. “Be by your side” Pillow Queens (from the album Leave the light on)

3. “Ur mom” Wet Leg (from the album Wet Leg)

4. “Always together with you” Spiritualized (from the album Everything was beautiful)

5. “Louis” Charlotte Rose Benjamin (from the album Dreamtina)

6. “Who’s in the dark” Jeanines (from the album Don’t wait for a sign)

7. “Looking backward” Melody’s Echo Chamber (from the album Emotional eternal)

8. “Messy roomz” Frontperson (from the album Parade)

9. “Hall of mirrors” Let’s Eat Grandma (from the album Two ribbons)

10. “Tap” Tomberlin (from the album I don’t know who needs to hear this)

11. “Nervous breakdown” Pink Mountaintops (from the album Peacock Pools)

12. “The lightning I & II” Arcade Fire (from the album WE)

13. “Mistakes” Sharon Van Etten (from the album We’ve been going about this all wrong)

14. “Young and stupid” Belle and Sebastian (from the album A bit of previous)

15. “You will never work in television again” The Smile (from the album A light for attracting attention)

16. “The amarillo kid” Craig Finn (from the album A legacy of rentals)

17. “U can be happy if U want to” Porridge Radio (from the album Waterslide, diving board, ladder to the sky)

18. “Toast” Fanclubwallet (from the album You have got to be kidding me)

19. “Wow” Tess Parks (from the album And those who were seen dancing)

20. “Bad love” Dehd (from the album Blue skies)

21. “Pretenders” Stars (from the album From Capelton Hill)

22. “23” Just Mustard (from the album Heart under)

23. “All the flowers” Angel Olsen (from the album Big time)

24. “Anti-glory” Horsegirl (from the album Versions of modern performance)

25. “Shotgun” Soccer Mommy (from the album Sometimes, forever)

Those of you who are on the Apple Music train can click here to sample the above tracks as a whole playlist.

And as always, wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe and continue to be well. Above all, enjoy the tunes.

*The photo for this playlist’s cover is one that I took of a couple of gigantic trees that were torn up by their roots at the end of my street.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the other playlists I’ve created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.


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

<< #19    |    #17 >>

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.