There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light

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Canadian indie pop establishment Stars are no strangers to artfully crafted dissections of love's many facets, but on their eighth full-length release, the subject is treated to a master class of amorous rumination. As laid out in its title cut, the overriding theme of There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light is the classic pearl of wisdom that like anything that lives, love's survival depends on its being tended, watered, nurtured, and occasionally taken out of its home to marinate in the elements. Stars must know something about this as, like a perennially well-adjusted couple, they show up every few years to quietly impress with their consistency, unity, and steadfast commitment to quality. Fluorescent Light is not a showy album and lacks some of the dancefloor panache of 2014's disco-influenced No One Is Lost, but it dazzles in its own subtle ways. The tone of the production is generally warm and frequently soft, with plenty of dreamy late-night synths, intricate guitars, and sweetly conversational interplay and harmonies from co-vocalists Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell. By no means is it a manual on love-tending. Many of its songs deal with the frailties and desperation of human affection from the woozy anguish of "Losing to You" to the love-as-battlefield anthem of "Real Thing," whose dueling time-signature arrangement makes for a wonderfully clever juxtaposition. It plays well as a set, but some standouts include the low-key piano ballad "The Gift of Love," Campbell's dark-hued showpiece "The Maze," and the Millan-led closer, "Wanderers," whose big sunny group chorus shares a strong kinship with fellow Canadian indie pop heroes the New Pornographers. If there's any downside, it's a slight excess in length, with a handful of five- and six-minute cuts creating a bit of drag here and there. Still, it's a small grumble from a shockingly reliable ensemble still churning out top-shelf material nearly two decades into its career.

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