On paper the STARS' blend of pink-cheeked youthfulness and booze-addled wistfulness sounds risible--it's hard to take indie-pop musicians seriously when they feel compelled to point out that they drink and do drugs "quite a lot." But you might change your mind if you give a listen to the third album by this Montreal-based band, Set Yourself on Fire, released last spring in the States by Arts & Crafts (and yes, three members have played in Broken Social Scene, just like practically everybody else in Canada). Their carefully plotted songs of love gone wrong, rich with strings, synth, fuzz guitar, breathy girl-boy vocals, and the odd French horn part, make them sound a bit like David Gedge's Cinerama. (They may not appreciate yet another comparison to yet another pop hero--on their Web site, under "ten things you may not know about Stars," they've put "stars think the Magnetic Fields SUCK" in the second slot, though they've got plenty in common with that band too. Sorry, but I hear what I hear.) Sometimes lyrics like "We are collapsed in the act of just being here" come across too much like LiveJournal poetry, especially when you can't tell whether the band's trying to sound like Brits affecting a Yankee accent or Yanks aping Brits. But tug out your jaded-old-fart earplugs for a sec and the Stars' gentle, hungover melodrama can make you feel 17 and shitty again. Every time I hear "Reunion," which drapes a perfectly limpid chorus melody over the lyrics "All I want is one more chance / To be young and wild and free / All I want is one more chance to show you / You were right for me," I want to run out, collar a prudish-looking high school kid, and scream at her, "Gather ye rosebuds, stupid!" --Ann Sterzinger
Blake Sennett, the front man of THE ELECTED, is perhaps best known as the guitarist in Rilo Kiley, where he shares songwriting duties (and a past as a child actor--anybody remember Nickelodeon's Salute Your Shorts?) with singer Jenny Lewis. But his project on the Elected's new Sun, Sun, Sun (Sub Pop) is clearly to turn the young 'uns on to the timeless genius of the Eagles. The DNA's all there: twangy Gram Parsons-style licks, gratuitous lap steel, songs written in hotel rooms on tour. He even seems to understand the true secret of the Eagles' mongo success in the numb, defeatist 70s--never do something musically that's interesting enough to distract from the lyrics, then make sure the lyrics don't actually say anything. The result is an album-length void you can disappear into like a sensory deprivation tank. Sennett's twist on this trick is to sing about the dynamics of his relationships with his exes in a way that's so personal it's all but meaningless to everybody else. Ultimately he assumes the persona of the contrite sinner, returning obsessively to his past as though he could protect his old lovers from his former self. --J. Niimi
The Stars headline. This show is part of the Hawk Winter Music Festival; for a complete schedule see page 36. Fri 2/17, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, 18+, sold out.