On October 14, Stars, the indie pop rock veterans from Canada, returned with the release of No One Is Lost, their seventh studio album in thirteen years. It’s been over a decade since the band first received international attention with their staple Set Yourself on Fire. The obvious tonal change in the album titles alone suggests light-heartedness, but don’t let that fool you. In a press release, Torquil Campbell, co-lead singer and songwriter, explained the album title in his typical tongue-in-cheek logic, “This record’s called No One Is Lost because that is a f-ing lie.” In fact, the entire album stems from this mixture of happy-go-lucky and utter despair. It’s about taking real-world issues and the mundane problems of everyday life and morphing them into 80s groovy pop dreams.
No One Is Lost kicks off with the splendidly complex, foot-tapping, six-minute venture “From the Night.” Dilly-dallying between a grand, dance-floor chorus and steady, quiet verses, the anthem works like a nine-to-five workday that trudges along until the nighttime, when it finally comes to life. Torquil sings, “Every dream in your head as you lie in your bed is worth keeping.” It’s about living out your dreams when you can and finding those moments between the humdrum to truly shine. Stars take the idea behind the phrase “ignorance is bliss” and root it in reality.
The next song, “This is the Last Time,” is a playful, teenage romance, Blondie meets Toni Basil track. You can practically picture co-lead singer Amy Milan with a side-ponytail skipping around on stage singing, “you held me up at the bus stop / to tell me that you had enough.” “You Keep Coming Up” features a back and forth competitiveness between both Milan and Campbell that is reminiscent of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease, minus the corny lyrics and dance moves.
Things pick back up again on “Turn It Up,” which combines soaring guitars and a child chorus. It walks the line between cheesy and dreary quite perfectly. It’s the smartest track on the album, and contains one of its shining moments when Milan sings, “You can’t have love if you don’t have hate.” This lyric sums up the album entirely with its contradictory attitude and a complete understanding of balancing the good times in life with the not-so-good times. The little things in life can go a long way for our mental health: “Basement smoke in a state of grace / heartbeat cold in the dead of winter.”
No One Is Lost loses its footing on songs like “No Better Place” and “What Is to be Done?” These songs don’t hold much weight on the album, and, with Stars’ impressive catalogue, they’ll get overlooked easily. Their fleeting, soft quality gets lost in an album that’s heightened by songs that are more demanding and fixated in the moment. “Trap Door” and “Are You Okay?” are contagious, uplifting, and quintessential pop. Campbell brings out his edge and direct lyrics with, “You always did the things they told you to / you always bought that s-t they sold you.” In a way, it’s refreshing to hear him be universally bold, as it helps move the audience to go against the standard and fight back for themselves. It gives hope back to the lifeless.
The title track and closing number, “No One Is Lost,” is one of Stars’ most diverse and audacious songs that will leave a lasting impression in their discography. Culminating like an EDM track channeling their inner New Order, its chorus requires its audience to “put your hands up if you ever feel afraid.” It’s the darkest yet most uniting song on the album, while Milan repeats “no one is lost” throughout. It opens with Campbell describing someone aimlessly wandering for more to his or her life: they’re lost.
No One Is Lost may not have the staying power or the game-changing quality that some of Stars’ previous releases saw, but there’s a lot of heart and lessons to learn from it. No One Is Lost is a mostly pleasing and lyrically contrasting album that will keep you guessing as much as grooving.