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Stars: Tiny Desk Concert

Whether they're dressed in strings or synthesizers, the songs of the Montreal band Stars are sturdy enough to be reconstituted into gorgeous, catchy pop music. Similarly, no matter how conceptually elaborate the Montreal band gets — and the hauntings in 2010's The Five Ghosts aren't merely figurative — Stars' songs still often reflect on lovers who can't evade the consequences they've created. Singers Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell may follow side roads into politics, poetry and even fantasy, but their music is universal: a girl and a boy who can't communicate the way they need to, even when they're singing articulately in each other's faces.

That's especially clear in this marvelous little three-song set at the NPR Music offices: With only Evan Cranley's acoustic guitar for accompaniment, Millan and Campbell take two of the fizziest dance-pop tracks on The Five Ghosts — "Fixed" and "I Died So I Could Haunt You" — and transform them into chiming, charming folk songs. They didn't need the bank of synthesizers we'd expected, nor did they bother with the string section about which we'd fantasized. Instead, they stuck to 10 minutes of simple, ageless beauty, not to mention a magnificent take on what has become Stars' signature song: 2005's wise but wrenching "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead."

Set List

  • "I Died So I Could Haunt You"
  • "Fixed"
  • "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead"
  • Credits

    Filmed and edited by Michael Katzif; photo by Abby Verbosky

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)