The Five Ghosts (Soft Revolution Records )
IT BEGINS with a song about encountering the ghosts of former friends who died young, and the spectre of ghosts, both real and imagined, pervades Stars’ latest album.
That opening track, ‘Dead Hearts’, with it’s gently chiming guitars building to a dramatic chorus, is a call and response duet between vocalists Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan.
Like many of The Five Ghosts’ best moments it features the pair immersing themselves in the roles of the songs’ protagonists - ‘I Died So I Could Haunt You’, where a man is confronted by his dead love and ‘We Don’t Want Your Body’ about vampires who lustily stalk city streets.
The ghosts are not always supernatural though and ‘Changes’, an old style pop ballad, featuring a lovely solo vocal performances by Millan, deals with being haunted by the past.
There is a strong 1980s feel to some of the songs, such as on ‘How Much More’, a terrific piece of fast paced modern synth-pop/new wave. Sometimes, though, the eighties homage is with tongue firmly in cheek (just listen to those Michael Jackson-esque ‘Shum’on’s on ‘We Don’t Want Your Body’ ).
The Five Ghosts will take a few listens to pull you in, but give it a chance, its slightly shoegazey indie is well worth it.
Department of Eagles
Archives 2003-2006 (Bella Union )
WHEN NOT one quarter of Grizzly Bear, singer-songwriter/guitarist Daniel Rossen explores other facets of his talents through Department Of Eagles.
This compilation collects a series of experiments, rare tracks, demos, and ideas recorded by Rossen and old mate Fred Nicolaus in-between their two official albums The Cold Nose and In Ear Park.
It opens and closes with atmospheric, avant garde, sound pieces, which cry out to be used as the backdrop for an art instillation or on an experimental film soundtrack.
More accessible, relatively speaking, are the nine songs. Given the nature of these recordings they have a stripped down, intimate, unpolished feel, but that’s part of the charm.
The folk-pop quirks of ‘Deadly Disclosures’ works well as do the slightly woozy vocal harmonies of ‘Practice Room Sketch 2’. Both hint strongly of the influence of the odder ballads found on The Beatles’ White Album and Paul McCartney’s 1970 solo debut.
Archives 2003 - 2006 is only for Grizzly Bear/Department of Eagles and indie die-hards, but for such audiences it’s a trip that has worthwhile music to offer.