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Stars shine on 

Nearly 20 years in, all the Montreal love-poppers are looking for is connection.

click to enlarge Stars will visit Halifax for the first time in a couple years. - SHERVIN LAINEZ
  • Stars will visit Halifax for the first time in a couple years.

Stars w/Jenn Grant
Friday, April 13, 9pm
The Marquee Ballroom
2037 Gottingen Street

There's a moment in "We Called It Love," track six on Stars' latest sad-and-synthy LP There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light, where it becomes imminently clear the band is returning to form. Frontpeople Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan softly chant their signature sharp truths dressed in soft gossamer: "I don't believe people ever change, but I've changed, I've changed."

The Montreal-based five-piece has changed—grown, really—since it bloomed into collective Canadian consciousness with 2004's addictive breakthrough Set Yourself On Fire.

For awhile, though, that growth felt like a pulling away from the original heartbreak-laced lyrics that separated Stars from the rest of the dream-pop pack: 2010's The Five Ghosts saw cryptic metaphors begin to replace the he-said she-said relationship post-mortem Stars did so well. Thankfully, Fluorescent Light rings with the double perspectives' return.

As the band heads to The Marquee on Friday, Millan doesn't waste time discussing this recent past. Reached via phone, she has near-immediate points at the ready about the new album and growing older: "There are things that happen when you hit this age where the options of life start to become less," she says. "I think of that Neil Young song—'Some get strong, some get strange but sooner or later it all gets real'—that, to me, is a lot of what this record is about."

Sonically, Fluorescent Light sees Millan singing more than she ever has on past records (a welcome addition)—and it also marked the first time the band handed a set of songs over to a producer, rather than co-producing.

"We've been a band for coming up on 20 years. I think it's important for us to be challenged by someone outside our circle. It's like a family, right? You sort of fall into the same roles and regress," says Millan. "When there's someone else in the room, they demand more from you and you're not allowed to fall into your same patterns."

Producer Peter Katis was the sound alchemist of choice. "Peter has this kind of magical hand. He's able to massage a song into a place of unbelievable depth with these very small movements," Millan says.

"I really like the sadder side of Stars," says Katis. It's an unsurprising statement from the longtime Interpol collaborator who also crafted a number of records with The National, including High Violet. Katis adds he was given a lot of creative room, sometimes even looping a scrap of song until he built the perfect base.

"Sometimes young bands are just harder to work with because they're less adventurous. Sometimes, bands can just care too much, while a band that's been around for awhile [like Stars] has already gone through all those emotions and all those things and they're more open-minded," he says of the year-long recording process.

"Our underlining mantra has always been about finding connection—about how people connect and how they disconnect—and I think with the process of becoming older...we don't really have all the answers anymore," Millan says. "Mostly I just feel a sense of pride of the longevity of my friendships and the music with my band."

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