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.