Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Stars in my eyes?


I worry about myself sometimes. Despite my oft-expressed dislike for ‘Big Indie’ (y’know stadium indie rock, beloved of major record labels and peddled by the likes of Coldplay and Snow Patrol), I wonder if my antipathy is fuelled by it being intrinsically bad or just because familiarity breeds contempt. I’m not a big daytime radio listener or TV watcher, so I’ve always reckoned it was the former, but now and then Big Indie songs come along which I actually quite like.

This question really arose for me after listening to the latest album from Canadian band and Broken Social Scene associates Stars. Admittedly I’d never heard of them before till I spotted their name top of the ‘most blogged’ list on The Hype Machine a month or so ago. That made me curious. The last band who I first heard of in this way was CSS about a year ago, and look where they are now. Then came the story everyone knows now about how they’ve released their album digitally a couple of months before it comes out on physical formats, which is being touted as some sort of new dawn by some music media people (but it’s hardly new – lots of people have done this, not least Leeds electro-indie oddball Napoleon IIIrd). So it was odd then that I’ve been listening to it on a real tangible CD then, after getting a promo copy a couple of weeks ago.

But anyway, the music. A lot of seems uncomfortably close to Big Indie for my linking. But what has given me the slight worry is that I actually quite like it. Is it because I’m now over 30 and have a small baby? Is there some sort of irrevocable journey towards the middle of the musical road? I try to calm my fears by reminding myself that I was listening to the new Health album at the same time and liking that too. The title track of the album – In Our Bedroom After the War – is a prefect case in point. Starts off slowly, piano ballad style, with a simple but poignant melody, before gradually building up steam till the big chords and strings crash in and I can almost imagine the chorus at the end “After the Wa-aa-aar” being chanted by a crowd, lighters aloft in front of the Glastonbury main stage at dusk. If Stars were on a major label with a huge PR budget, rather than Canadian indie Arts and Crafts, that could be a distinct possibility. This is music with huge crossover potential.

But again, I quite like it. I’m not sure what it is that sets it apart from the other Big Indie out there that I dislike so. Maybe it’s that they use electronics more than their stadium-packing peers. Maybe it’s the male-female vocal interplay between Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan (I’m always a sucker for that kind of thing). Maybe the songs are just better. I’m not sure. Maybe nothing really sets it apart. Maybe it is Big Indie and I’ll just have to live with the fact. Maybe there’s nothing embarrassing or wrong about that. Maybe I’ll grow tired of this album in time. Maybe not. I’ll just have to wait and see.

Download: Stars – The Night Starts Here

You can download In Our Bedroom After the War from the Arts and Crafts website for a mere £5.54 (after all, £7.99 for a DRM-riddled, 128kbps file from iTunes is not a good deal, is it?). Or wait till the CD comes out in September.

8 comments:

Steve said...

Can you define 'DRM-riddled'? Especially the 'riddled' part.

Matthew said...

DRM is the infestation of the gods. Things with a minor DRM problem are simply tricky to crack. Things which are riddled can't be played on most music software or burned to CD. DRM- riddled stuff is my by utter cunts.

Matthew said...

I hate DRM so much I am now typo-riddled. Egads!

The Daily Growl said...

Matthew, you are so right. Steve, you can read more here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_rights_management

Alternatively, it's another way of saying that some (major) record labels treat their customers with utter contempt by refusing to sell mp3s of their artists' albums online.

mjrc said...

don't fret about liking stars. they aren't as big as you think. i saw them two years ago when they opened for death cab for cutie, and i might have been the only person in the room who knew their music, and that was after their last cd, set yourself on fire, had come out, and that was a fantastic album.

they're just good. there's something about the interplay of all of them together that produces something special.

jessicajlee said...

Set Yourself on Fire was HUGE in Canada. For serious. I don't anyone who doesn't own it.

The Daily Growl said...

Ah, I had no idea. They're unheard of over here. So maybe the whole stadium indie thing isn't too far from the truth...

jessicajlee said...

well, they toured with metric a lot. if that helps give some perspective. so not too huge, but pretty big, here at least.