Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Song Premiere: Stars, 'Backlines'

Stars' new album, <em>The North</em>, comes out Sept. 4.
Norman Wong
Stars' new album, The North, comes out Sept. 4.

Predicting the sound of any given Stars song takes some doing: The Montreal band traffics in everything from joyfully guitar-driven power-pop to synth-based dance music to string-swept ballads that detail the heartbreaking minutiae of doomed romance. Even the lead voices shift from song to song, with Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell singing to, over and about each other, occasionally swapping verses.

Stars' sixth album, The North, out Sept. 4, jumps around quite a bit itself, but "Backlines" ought to please fans who've gravitated toward propulsively poppy songs like "Elevator Love Letter" and "Ageless Beauty" in the past. All three of those tunes, as it happens, feature Millan, who's extraordinarily well-suited to a sort of sunny melancholy.

"Backlines" sizzles, pops and fades out quickly like a summertime sparkler: With a running time that barely exceeds two minutes, it hardly bothers to clear its throat before bursting to alternately woozy and spiky life. Stars' music isn't often ambiguous — there's a song on The North called "Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It," lest the mission statement get lost — but "Backlines" is instead content to get by on fizzy energy, vague references to romantic unease, and its own considerable charm.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit

Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson is a host, writer and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist and guest host on All Songs Considered. Thompson also co-hosts the daily NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created with NPR's Linda Holmes in 2010. 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.)