Canadian indie pop group Stars surprised fans when they posted a cryptic link on their MySpace page that later revealed itself to be the announcement of the release of their Sad Robots EP. This was, undoubtedly, a most welcome surprise.
This six-song EP has electronica elements that are reminiscent of their 2001 debut album Nightsongs as opposed to their later more rock sounding releases. The addition of a live version of “Going, Going, Gone” further ties this EP to their debut release.
However, Sad Robots delves even deeper into the experimental electronica than Nightsongs. As I actually listened to “Maintenance Hall, 4am” at 4 am, I found myself hypnotized by the slow piano mixed with a steady bass drum beat. The robotic effect done to Torquil Campbell‘s voice pulled me out of my trance, though.
Following the mostly instrumental opening track is “A Thread Cut With A Carving Knife,” which tells a sad story of a guy just barely making it through to the next day. As the seasons change and get colder with the man’s heart he must “Drink to stay alive, / But you’re hoping it would kill you, too.” Amy Millan‘s beautiful voice encourages pushing for another day, “Close your eyes until tomorrow. It could bring you joy or it could bring you sorrow.” At the end of the song, the ascending melody is played against a background of descending scales representing the struggle of rising above everything trying to pull you down. This haunting track is one of the strongest on the EP.
A heavy bass provides the under current for “Undertow.” This song definitely captures the robotic theme of the EP, but with an odd mix of reverberated vocals, untouched normal vocals and an odd breathing noise at the end. This is a track that I could do without.
Next is “Going, Going, Gone,” which is an old song presented in a new way. This is a live song, but it sounds just as good as any studio recording. The original version of this song had more of a staccato effect to it, but the band opted to sustain the synth and vocals to create or more ethereal sound. This is so instrumentally different that it’s practically a new song.
“14 Forever” is another song I could have done without. It is actually a quite fun, upbeat song and is something that fans of the Postal Service would love. However, it feels a little out of place with the other tracks’ more dour mood.
Ending the EP is title track “Sad Robot.” True to its name, robotic sounds abound in this song as it starts off with the beeps of a computer going haywire. An acoustic guitar gets distorted at the end of each phrase giving a really cool effect. Millan lays gentle French lyrics over this interesting instrumentation, which sounds amazing even to those of us who don’t understand a lick of French.
Stars’ Sad Robot EP became available for digital download as of Sept. 1. To purchase a physical copy you can either pick it up now at one of their tour dates, or pre-order for a shipping date of Sept. 16, 2008.
01. Maintenance Hall, 4am
02. A Thread Cut With A Carving Knife
04. Going, Going, Gone [Live] (Available for free download)
05. 14 Forever
06. Sad Robot
Sep 17 – Pearl Street / Northampton, MA*
Sep 18 – Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel / Providence, RI*
Sep 19 – Trocadero / Philadelphia, PA*
Sep 20 – Terminal 5 / New York, NY*
Sep 23 – Southgate House / Newport, KY*
Sep 24 – Vic Theatre / Chicago, IL*
Sep 25 – The Pageant / St. Louis, MO*
Sep 26 – The Granada / Lawrence, KS*
Sep 28 – Austin City Limits / Austin, TX#
Oct 01 – Avalon / Los Angeles, CA#
Oct 02 – House of Blues / Anaheim, CA#
Oct 03 – UCSB / Santa Barbara, CA#
Oct 04 – Rio Theatre / Santa Cruz, CA#
Oct 06 – The Fillmore / San Francisco, CA#
Oct 07 – WOW Hall / Eugene, OR#
Oct 08 – Wonder Ballroom / Portland, OR#
Oct 09 – Showbox Theatre / Seattle, WA#
Oct 10 – Western Washington University / Bellingham, WA#
*w/ Bell X1
#w/ Think About Life
Written by: Bethany