Stars, ‘The Five Ghosts’ (Vagrant)
On The Five Ghosts‘ winsomely tragic “Fixed,” Amy Millan coos about the moment a lover’s “touch turns into fisticuffs,” and it’s impossible to believe she’s singing about violence as anything other than a metaphor. That’s a problem when the band’s entire approach is treating the romantic entanglements of earnest bobos as matters of terminal importance. Still, Ghosts‘ flowing, synth-backed melodies are a vast improvement on 2006’s hammy In Our Bedroom After the War, if not 2004’s near-perfect Set Yourself on Fire. Cute isn’t what Stars aim for, but it’s often what they achieve.