Stars’ Torquil Campell and Pat McGee share their favorite music of 2022; holiday tour begins soon
Montreal band Stars returned with From Capelton Hill, their ninth full-length album and first in five years, back in May. They told us about some of the influences behind it when it came out, and now, as the year draws to a close, the band's Torquil Campbell and Pat McGee are back to tell us about their favorite songs and albums of the year, just ahead of their holiday tour. Read on for Torquil and Pat's lists and commentary, which are in no particular order, and feature Brad Barr, Entheos, The 1975, Northern Boys, and more.
Stars' holiday tour is with Lydia Persaud, and begins on Wednesday (11/30) in Waterloo, ON. They'll stop in NYC on December 7 at Le Poisson Rouge, and tickets are still available. See all dates below.
After releasing it on Bandcamp for Bandcamp Friday earlier this month, Stars have now shared their original holiday song, "Christmas Anyway," on all streaming services, and you can hear it below. "In a world where the algorithm (and other horrible things) has made us all feel further apart, going home for the holidays isn't easy for everyone," they say. "What is it about these days that makes us feel we have to go home to face the loved ones we simply cannot ever be at peace with? We have no idea, but we do know that sometimes a simple song can get you through at least a few minutes of holiday hell. We hope this one does that for you. We love you all. Merry Christmas. Xo- Stars"
Stars' Favorite Songs and Albums of 2022
Torquil Campbell's Top 5:
Marker Starling w/ Dorothea Paas - “Yet You Go On”
This record is by a guy called Chris Cummings who puts music out under the name Marker Starling. He was my sister's really good friend in high school, and even then, he had a melancholy, wry sense of humor and incredible style. He still does. This single he made in collaboration with the brilliant Toronto singer Dorothea Paas is exactly the song everyone involved in keeping a dream alive needs right now. I love it, and I'm grateful for it. Everything sucks, yet you go on. What else can you do?
Telefis - “Falun Gong Dancer”
This is a band made up of producer Jacknife Lee and the late greatCathal Coughlan of one of my favorite bands ever, Microdisney, and later The Fatima Mansions. Cathal died shortly after this record was released, and thank God this was made and released before we lost him. I'm not sure I have ever heard a song that uses silence for a more dramatic, powerful effect than this tune. Listening to this song is like watching a glacier melt. It's terrifying, majestic, and beautiful. Do not miss this record, there's nothing like it.
Northern Boys- “Party Time”
Two alcoholic 65 year olds from Northern England rip the hook from “American Boy” by Estelle and Ye and proceed to drop the sickest, most perverse, self-lacerating bars this side of Eminem. At first, this sounds like a novelty record, but I defy you to not eventually bow down to just how fucked up these two old bastards are. Pop music at its absolute best. It's party time, get your drugs out.
The 1975 - “Wintering”
It's not cool to like The 1975, but I could give a shit. The last proper rock stars left on earth. Glamorous, silly, profound, honest and just so so good at writing hooks. Even with J*** A******* involved, it's utterly brilliant.
Real Lies - Lad Ash
This is a whole record instead of a song, but I had to put it in. Real Lies are kind of everything I believe in: nighttime, synthesizers, rain, memory, drugs, loss, ecstasy, hedonism, and poetry. They are a great, quintessentially English band, and they talk over beats. I love that shit.
Pat McGee’s Top 5:
Wilderun - "Identifier"
I have to recommend this album in its entirety, as listening to it in full is one of the most confounding, exhilarating, and discombobulating musical journeys I've ever experienced. But if I had to sum it all up in one track, I'd recommend "Identifier." It's a micro taste of the genre bending musical mashup that is the entire album. Over 12 minutes, the band leads you through an endless universe of conflicting musical influence: where Andrew Lloyd Webber collides with Wagner and Orff, Groban meets Cannibal Corpse, and Liona Boyd joins Incubus. There's 60s fairy folk, 70s hobbit rock, 80s hair metal, 90s grunge, millennial grindcore, and contemporary big Broadway musical theater, all rooted in a thick tradition of metal. Too much you might ask? Somehow, no! The transitions are seamless and the twists and turns are endlessly compelling. It's corny and punishing and beautiful and scary, relentless, unapologetic, and ultimately magnificent. Not for everyone maybe, but definitely for me.
Entheos - "Absolute Zero"
In early May, I went to the super spreader event of the year: the Archspire show in Montreal. It was rammed and as I walked in my glasses fogged up, the temperature rose 20 degrees, and it felt like I'd jumped into a swimming pool of heaving, soaking wet metalheads. The opening band was on and killing, particularly the vocalist. Hellish death growls shook the room, then demonic scream vocals curdled the blood. The pit was fierce, but we pushed our way to the front to get a look at this child of Satan. And then, there she was. All 5' of her. Women are not overly represented in the metal milieu, so this revelation was both surprising and thrilling. It was the best and scariest vocal performance I'd heard since Jacob Bannon's antics on Jane Doe. If you want to hear what this prog metal outfit is all about, check out their recent single "Absolute Zero."
Tyler Hubbard - "5 Foot 9"
To my own surprise, my obsession with New Country persists. What started maybe 15 years ago as a lark to antagonize my haughty friends has morphed into what I have to admit is love. I'm obsessed. Not with all of it: only a select few make it onto my playlist, but that list has blossomed over the years to close to a hundred songs. Since Brooks and Dunn, Miranda Lambert, Toby Keith, and Alan Jackson first showed up on my radar, I've listened in awe and wonder as country artists since continue to distill the essence of country music down to its basest elements: whisky, trucks, red dirt, dusty roads, ma, pa, beer, boats, good girls, bad boys, fishin, drinkin, old dogs, starry skies, southern pride, chicken fried, and Jesus Christ. All in one song. Throw all these themes in a blender and mix with the most overcompressed, super saccharine, ultra glossy Nashville pop production the world has ever known and voila! Alchemy. Country gold. Most of my contemporaries find this shit offensive at best, horrifying at worst. I find it hilarious and heartbreaking. My favorites make me laugh and cry at once. (Can you tell I love dichotomies?) One of my faves this year is Tyler Hubbard's "5 foot 9."
Brad Barr - "Two Hundred and Sixteen"
Brad Barr is my neighbor. We run into each other out in the streets or at parties from time to time. He's handsome and dreamy, always friendly and warm. He has a quick and subtle sense of humor that always surprises me coming from such a soft spoken and understated fellow. He's also a bit mysterious. There's a romance and melancholy that shadows him. Sometimes I'll bike by his house and he'll be sitting on the steps in the dappled sunlight, playing guitar to the breeze. His playing is joy buried in sorrow, deeply infused with Appalachian/African/North Atlantic "blues." John Fahey, Elmore James, Ry Cooder, with a touch of weirdo Canuck Acadian ambience à la Daniel Lanois. But if you've listened to his music, either as one half of The Barr Brothers, or on his recent solo album The Winter Mission, you know all this already. He's an open book, and his music a pure reflection of who he is.
The Winter Mission is an instrumental album, just Brad playing guitar. His songs are moody, melodic, haunting, uplifting and confidently triste. "Two Hundred and Sixteen" is perfect for snowy Sunday mornings or just staring at empty fields.
Elton John & Dua Lipa- "Cold Heart" (PNAU Remix)
I drive a 2003 VW Golf with AM/FM radio and a tape deck. Consequently I listen to a lot of commercial radio. Elton John and Dua Lipa, individually, are ubiquitous on this archaic platform. I confess I'm not a giant fan of either, (except for EJ's "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" and DL's "Be The One"), but together on "Cold Heart," I can't seem to get enough. It has a lot to do with that bouncy bubbly bass line. Gets me boppin in my seat right away. And Elton gives a bit of a Samuel T Herring (Future Islands) delivery in the verse, which I always find compelling. And Dua's languid take on “Rocket Man’s” iconic chorus, minus the “Rocket Man”, is confident, cool and breezy, instantly recognizable as classic and yet she makes it her own. It's simple and cheeky and fun. Admittedly, I'll probably never put it on of my own volition, but whenever it comes on the radio, I'll always turn it up.
Stars 2022-2023 Tour Dates:
11/30/22 - Waterloo, ON - Maxwells
12/01/22 - Toronto, ON - Danforth Music Hall
12/02/22 - Montreal, QC - Theatre Fairmount
12/03/22 - Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall
12/04/22 - Hamden, CT - Space Ballroom
12/05/22 - Portland, ME - SPACE Gallery
12/07/22 - New York, NY - Le Poisson Rouge
12/09/22 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
12/10/22 - Philadelphia, PA - The Fillmore
02/03/23 - Galway, IRE - Roisin Dubh
02/04/23 - Dublin, IRE - Whelan’s
02/05/23 - Cork, IRE - Cyprus Avenue
02/07/23 - Belfast, UK - Ulster Sports Club
02/08/23 - Glasgow, UK - King Tuts
02/09/23 - Leeds, UK - Brudenell Social Club
02/10/23 - Manchester, UK - Deaf Institute
02/11/23 - London, UK - Lafayette London
02/12/23 - London, UK - Lafayette London
02/14/23 - Paris, FR - Petit Bain
02/16/23 - Amsterdam, NL - Paradiso
02/17/23 - Hamburg, DE - Knust
02/18/23 - Berlin, DE - Lido