Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
There is a high school girl who lives just down the street from the studio who was devastated, absolutely torn into ribbons a few months ago. She was out of town the day that Montreal band Stars stopped by for this session in the fall and she couldn't understand how something so unfortunate could happen to her. Stars is, she says, her favorite band in all of the world. She was as heartbroken as could be and to make matters worse, where she was - about nine hours from here in Detroit, Michigan - there on a school trip, this band was going to be playing a show the day that she was going to be there. Sadly, the reason for her visit to Detroit conflicted almost perfectly with the band's show that night. These are uncanny coincidences that make you feel as if this poor girl had everything stacked against. In this case, you'd be right. The thing is, as much as this young girl would hate to admit it - the sense of disappointment is likely still fresh in her mind and this essay won't help one bit in allowing her to forget how close she came - her story is precisely the sort of thing that makes one feel such fondness for Stars. It's precisely the thing that makes it your favorite band in all of the world. It takes appreciating the unbearable cruelty of luck and life sometimes. It takes appreciating the unbearable properties of whatever it is out there that decides to have it in for certain people on certain days - bringing that hopeless, dark fog out for a walk and somehow letting go of the leash so it just runs off in attack mode, looking for the first possible victim. The girl who never got closer than an imagination away from the close enough to touch band she adored almost certain listens to their albums now, feeling the songs speak to her in even more profound ways - in ways which deny words, notes or melodies. Part of her heart feels that lump of disappointment, of deadness, that just wants to sob a little. The songs that Amy Millan sings - for instance, the beautiful "Changes" and "How Much More" heard here - are feelings that grow out of pools of tears. They are slings thrown over broken wings and heavy hearts. They come from those places where you're looking skyward, feeling small and vulnerable, peering up at a huge amount of air and silence with moony eyes and shaky hands. It's as if you're there, wanting to wrap your arms around your shivery arms to protect from a winter cold in the dead of summer. It's a warmth that only the coldest and harshest winds and temperatures can bring on. It takes a while to be fine with, but you eventually do and you're less likely to be caught so unprepared in those sinister winds again. Though, as we hear in these lovely songs, preparation is usually futile and carefulness is folly. You will get hurt and you will be disappointed over and over again. You will love the wrong one. You'll die a little and live a lot. You'll find that your scars are your best friends, like it or not.