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There's a quietly discomforting sample that crops up almost unnoticed early in the runtime of No One is Lost: the seventh full-length from ubiquitous Montreal pop troupe Stars. It appears in the closing moments of 'This is the Last Time' - a driving synth-christened disco-rocker that could have capably fit anywhere within the quintet's back catalogue following their 2004 breakout LP Set Yourself On Fire - and could easily be overlooked as a throwaway moment following the prior track's glitter-dusted bombast.

"Every album we come out with, we thought 'this one is definitely better than the last', because if we didn't think that, y'see, we'd still be in there making it. That's the truth of it," a rather nervous narrator admits. Taken at face value - and given his shuffling, foot-staring tone - it could easily scan as endearing; a poke of subversive humour from a band more than capable of self-awareness, wisened from over a decade of releasing records that have frequently split opinion - not so much as critical darlings but more as an act that warrants intense 'cult' loyalism. In its context here though, and listening closer to the speaker's tone, it serves as something of a caveat; an almost defeatist lessening of expectations that places subjectivity - "we thought," "we didn't think" - at the heart of how to consume and assess No One is Lost.

It's a shame as at its core - conceptually, thematically and musically - nothing about No One is Lost should operate in such apologetic terms. Rather, from that inclusive, rallying album title to the way in which frontman Torquil Campbell summarised punk ideology in a recent interview with Paste as, "being proud of who you are. Speaking up for the people who feel bad about who they are. Giving them permission to say 'fuck you.' I might be a different sexuality than you, or I might not be able to express myself like you. Or I might be shy. Or I might be weak. But I have a gang, and that gang is Stars," what No One is Lost should be is fierce, provocative and flamboyant. Sure, it should be as personal as that mumbled quote but these words should be harked with abandon from the nocturnal dance floors of glistening intro 'From the Night', imbued with all the confidence and assuredness of Campbell's 'off the record' (so to speak) activities of late - whether that be the pride he so steadfastly asserted in that Paste interview, his rather one-sided Twitter beef with Pitchfork's Ian Cohen, or his recent calling out of Canadian PM Stephen Harper as a "fascist".

There's no denying that No One is Lost has its moments of sweetness and beauty - truly, you'd expect no less from the seasoned team of Campbell, Millan, Cranley, et al. The ringing, emotive chord progressions and less-is-more emotional drama of 'No Better Place' capably evoke the understated resonance of 2001 debut LP Nightsongs and its 2003 follow-up Heart, while the title track's sinewy synth figures and larger-than-life choruses bound with all the romantic theatricality of 2007's In Our Bedroom After the War.

If anything then, perhaps the reason for the feeling of emptiness at the well-meaning heart of No One is Lost is in its striking over-familiarity. For seasoned fans of the band there's plenty here to draw you in and validate long-held loyalty. As for the rest of us, it's a suite whose tangible bite comes up far short of the progressive bark that precedes it. "Live through this, and you won't look back," a younger, arguably more carefree, Campbell once let loose on 'Your Ex-Lover is Dead'. What a shame he and his fellow Stars couldn't take more heed of their own mantra.

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