Stars

Set Yourself on Fire (Arts&Crafts International)

SXSW Records

Stars

Set Yourself on Fire (Arts&Crafts International)

"When there's nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire." So goes the opening line of Stars' third album. Whether it's a testament to the Montreal quintet's native winters or an example of the passion conveyed on this album is hard to say. File it next to the conundrum of Montreal itself, home to the Dears, Arcade Fire, and Broken Social Scene, with whom singer Amy Millan and guitarist Evan Cranley moonlight. It's official: Montreal is the new New York City, which is appropriate both directions, because Set Yourself on Fire is a winter album. The songs spring from a warm hearth, upping the ante from their well-received sophomore LP, 2003's Heart. Fire employs a wide array of instrumentation from trombone to glockenspiel, but make no mistake, both Millan and co-vox Torquil Campbell's lyrics drive this music. "Live through this, and you won't look back," they croon in tandem on explosive opener "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead," an ode to moving on. In fact, that's Fire's resounding theme: chin up and chest to the wind. "Ageless Beauty" is an archway through which a world of frustration ("What I'm Trying to Say," "He Lied About Death") and hope ("One More Night," "Sleep Tonight") follows. "The Big Fight" casts the brightest light on this floodlit disc, Millan and Campbell trading lines in a scorned-lover duet, a tactic used to brilliant effect. Closer "Calendar Girl" sums up Fire in one phrase: "I'm alive!" (Saturday, March 19, 11pm @ Blender Bar @ the Ritz)

****

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