I had recently moved back to the West Coast after spending a year living in the Interior, and had no plans. I suffered from horrifically vivid night terrors. I was grumpy and gross and disconnected from everything I had once held so dear. I was in limbo: unsure of what I was doing; where I was going; who I was.
I wanted to disappear. Fast-forward or rewind life to a time when I was a part of something at school, or work or in a relationship. It was a terribly, dark and depressing time.
I spent a lot of time in my childhood bedroom next to my old Beavis and Butthead poster, reading my old diaries and listening to the Stars. Their music is so visual that I couldn’t help but get transported to another time, another place, another life. First love bullshit, emotional tirades, juvenile fights and the recklessness of youth seen through the hazy alcohol-induced lens of regret, over-thinking things, and knowing better. That’s what Set Yourself on Fire reminds me of.
What I love most about the Stars is their lyrics. Each song is a story, a memory or a vision depending on how you’re feeling when you hear it.
Your Ex-Lover is Dead, is one of my favourite Stars songs ever. Growing up in a small town, I know all too well how hard it is to escape your past. You are destined to run into your ex-boyfriend, old friends, family friends or former co-workers anywhere you go. That fear can be paralyzing. But over the years, I’ve developed a thick, impenetrable bubble that is hard to crack unless you basically hit me over the head and say “We slept together!” See, I don’t wear my glasses so even if I do run into someone, I don’t know it unless we are five feet away from each other. I always think about how many people I’ve put off blindly walking by them without a second glance, a knowing smile or a nod. It always makes me think of this lyric:
Captured a taxi despite all the rain
We drove in silence across Pont Champlain
And all of the time you thought I was sad
I was trying to remember your name…
I’ve always wished that once you ended a relationship the other person would just fall off the earth. It’s not that I hate everyone I don’t see anymore. It’s just that the curiosity of what they are doing, how they are living, how and if they think about me can become all-consuming. It’s pathetic, I know, but I care too much. Spending too much time thinking about who could be thinking about you is ridiculous and over-indulgent. But sometimes a song or a piece of clothing or a face in a crowd can feel like deja vu and the next thing you know, you’re half remembering and half daydreaming about something that happened or could happen.
I chose to feel it and you couldn’t choose
I’ll write you a postcard
I’ll send you the news
From a house down the road from real love.
The Stars are one of the most skilled bands out there. They put out a lot of records and tour often. Amy Millan’s voice is so soft but strong. Her voice is delicate and honest and fierce while Torquil Campbell’s voice is heartwrenching and sad. The instrumentation and melodies are always sweepingly lush and original. But it’s their lyrics that always stick in my head.
This scar is a fleck on my porcelain skin
Tried to reach deep but you couldn’t get in.
Hindsight is always 20/20. It’s easy to pinpoint what what wrong in a relationship once you are outside of it. But when you’re in the eye of the hurricane, every move feels topsy turvy.
All our ex-lovers are dead, really. We’re not the same people we were in our previous relationships and neither are our previous partners. It’s not particularly sad. It’s not happy, of course, but it just is what it is.
I’m not sorry I met you
I’m not sorry it’s over
I’m not sorry there’s nothing to say.
If you don’t have Set Yourself on Fire, I wholeheartedly recommend you get it and In Our Bedroom After the War which are two of my favourite albums of all time and definitely in the top 10 CDs I would take with me if I was stranded on a desert island.