Haunted pop dreams

“Songs to listen to at night” is how Stars’ Torquil Campbell matter-of-factly describes Nightsongs. And while his band’s aptly titled full-length debut is undoubtedly intended for late-night listening, his is still a somewhat misleading statement. It’s important to mention, for instance, that if your nocturnal proclivities are of the more decadent variety, then you’d best not pick up the album, expecting it to be the sound track to your next night of drunken debauchery. For the pensive souls who’d rather spend twilight to first light tucked in bed with headphones and a diary, however, these 14 chansons d’amour are the stuff dreams are made of.

With Nightsongs released by Bloomfield Hills label Le Grand Magistery, Stars sound perfectly at home alongside the lush romanticism of label mates Mascott and Shoestrings. At times evoking Saint Etienne and even Belle & Sebastian, the duo — Montreal’s Campbell and Chris Seligman — plays Smiths-smitten electronic pop that’s all longing and nostalgia. While songs such as “On Peak Hill” and “Counting Stars on the Ceiling” recount lives and loves gone by, the music itself often recalls the most sublime moments of ’80s-era New Order without sounding retro.

It’s that touching retelling of the past — both musically and lyrically — that gives Nightsongs an emotional heft lacking in much of today’s pop music. At their best, Stars not only describe, but evoke the stark realization that even the best relationships eventually stall, turning us into someone else’s faded memories (“Going, Going, Gone,” “The Very Thing”). Campbell and Seligman have learned that when all’s been said and done, we’re left with little more than letters, photos and songs to help us remember and be remembered. If your hopes and dreams are haunted by similar concerns, then Stars’ pop nostalgia will help get you through the night.

E-mail Jimmy Draper at [email protected].

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