Stars is an indie rock band from Montréal by way of Toronto. To date, they’ve released five albums, and Set Yourself on Fire was the third. It was released in Canada and the UK in the autumn of 2004, then in the US in the spring of 2005.
The four core members of Stars are also players in Broken Social Scene. You could say that about almost every Canadian musician between the ages of 30 and 45, though. These days, none of the members of Stars have much time for BSS anymore, and I’d say that’s a good thing. In fact, they’re all off doing solo side projects on top of their Stars commitments. Amy Millan has two solo records and another reportedly on the way. Her “partner” Evan Cranley has played on her solo records and is also involved in a hip-hop band. Torquil Campbell is also in a band called Dead Child Star, who put out one record last year.
I’m a pretty big fan of the band, and if you made me pick my favourite album of theirs, I’d have a very hard time picking between Set Yourself on Fire and In Our Bedroom After the War(2007). The albums before and the album after are good and well, but I always come back to these two. There are a lot of great songs on SYOF, and I like “Ageless Beauty” best for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is that it’s an Amy song. It doesn’t sound like her writing, but she does all the lead vocals. It’s not that I don’t like Torquil. It’s just that I like Amy’s singing more than I like his.
“Ageless Beauty” by Stars
While this is loosely about time taking its toll, there’s more to it than that. I don’t know exactly what, but there’s something else. There’s a lot of nautical reference in here. Coupled with the debated lyric “We will always be alight”, that’s led some to come to the conclusion that this is about a lighthouse rather than a woman. I can’t begin to guess which lighthouse this might be about, if indeed it’s about a lighthouse. For the record, though, you won’t find a better lighthouse in North America than this one.
I really like, but have no idea what this means:
Oceans won’t freeze
So loosen your heart
Undefeated in this love
This song was the single from the album, and it’s easy to understand why. It has a great hook right from the drop. Amy’s vocals are pretty sweet. Doubled in the verses and layered upon background vocals in the chorus. It’s a great pop song.
It’s got some unconventional timing. The verses are (I think) in “normal” 4/4 timing, but the choruses are in some crazy timing that I can’t figure out. And it’s during those crazy bits with the unconventional timing where the drums get a little busy and chaotic. The vocals are buried on top of each other and there’s a great deal of ambiguity. “We will always be alight”? “We will always be alright”?
I kinda like lighthouse theory. At first I hated it because I wanted this to be about a woman. Of course women are often said to be figurative lighthouses (beacon in the night, etc.), but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea that this is about a literal lighthouse.
Use the band’s website to buy Set Yourself on Fire directly from them.