For Stars

Windows for Stars

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From the haunting, spacious opening buzz that opens the recording just before Carlos Foster lets loose his choked singing, it is instantly apparent that For Stars' second album is a different, more musically mature affair than their sensational debut. Windows for Stars is equally wonderful but is also an altogether more textural and spatially expansive effort that ultimately ends up a more satisfying listening experience. It recalls Brian Eno as often as '70s soft rock and pop, and there is so much more color to the music: canyon-esque bass, barely audible bits of mellotron, splashes of trumpet and flute. The stark moments are filled with desolate space -- whole tracks ("Spectators," "Go Ahead") are built from ambient noise alone -- and in those spaces a deeper, ominous mystery is bred. The songwriting, too, shows increased diversity, and the more defined melodies of songs such as "Whose Idea" and the sweet minstrel ballad "Bleu" lend the music a more authentic poignancy. Foster's dreamy lyrics are perhaps the most intriguing progression from For Stars. Although not inconsequential by any means on the initial recording, his words did have a tendency to sink into the soundscapes like just another instrument. With the more varied musical approach, his gorgeous poetic yearning is far more evident ("I am bound to be/at the end of the runway/take my pilot's uniform/and sleep beneath the noise/It seems that the airplanes need/Spectators/I can turn the oak tree/into my control tower," he croons on "Spectators"). In many respects, the band's evolution is significant, yet all the hallmarks of their debut remain: agonizingly slow-building tension, falsetto prettiness, lazy paper-thin drumming, and a fragile, sad quality that makes you want to pull the music closer and absorb all the comfort that you can from it. The band still provides flawlessly economical backing, spinning seductive, languid musical cocoons around Foster's sensitive-boy voice. They are simply more intriguing cocoons, with such an enticing cinematic quality. Hushed incidental noise -- atmospheric whirring, subtle feedback, vague electronic noodling -- is evident in the backdrop of almost every song, and the guitar on songs such as "Run From Me" and "Golden Boy" is a more sparkling variation of the kind heard on spaghetti western soundtracks. Windows for Stars lulls you into loving it. It is the soundtrack to every woozy summer dream you will ever have, flawlessly surreal with a sweaty, punch-drunk logic that leaves you feeling like you're swimming in some small part of heaven. And it is just about as romantic as pop music gets.

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