Imagine the most beautiful voice in the world. Chances are, Carlos Forster has it. If not, he comes pretty darn close. It’s the kind of voice that makes indie girls swoon and go starry-eyed, and gets indie boys inspired and starry-eyed (or just green with envy, depending on the case). Normally, I don’t go gaga over vocalists, because so many vocalists nowadays just strike me as ordinary and banal, but Forster’s voice is an instrument of beauty. Eerily reminiscent of those harmonies that you only hear on those old Beach Boys recordings in your head, they soar over For Star’s exquisite brand of lush, sensitive pop.
Although the album begins with the stark and eerie “Spectators,” which unfolds like a hazy daydream that you half-remember from your childhood, Windows For Stars saves its best moments for gems like “Sorry” and “Bleu.” And what gems they are. This is amazing stuff; luxurious, yet lo-fi pop songs that just unfold before you. Crystalline guitars, bright trumpets, wavering organs, the lazily brushed percussion… it’s all there waiting to caress your ears. When that bridge hits on “Sorry,” as Forster’s voice strains for the sky, you’ll swear that you’ve found this generation’s Brian Wilson.
On top of their superb hooks and arrangements, For Stars know how to use ambience and texture to add a ghostly quality to their songwriting. And their lyrics aren’t just resigned to being about pretty girls, sunny days, and walking hand in hand along the beach. Woven throughout the eerie atmosphere of “Go Ahead” are lyrics like “Go ahead and feel forsaken, go ahead and cry/Because anyone who builds temples is going to fall sometime.” Whereas such lyrics might come across as bitter and spiteful, they pack a sense of regret and bittersweetness thanks to Forster’s sad voice.
An even better example is “The Kissing Scene.” Backed by a strummed guitar and more of For Star’s hazy atmospherics, Forster’s voice is at it’s most vulnerable as he sings “In the movie, there’s a part where I’m kissing you/How I’ve always loved the part where I’m kissing you.” Although the lyrics and Forster’s vocals resonate with longing, the music has a tint of menace and anxiety, and it’s this precarious balance that gives the song it’s depth.
It’s easy for songs this pretty to just be that… pretty, atmospheric ditties that fade from memory soon after the album is over. For the most part, For Stars keeps from crossing that line. This is the real thing kids, pop music that’s accessible and catchy, but with more than its share of haunting emotion. Call it nostalgic, call it melancholy… heck, call it self-absorbed. But such are the trademarks of all great artists and craftsmen, and For Stars lands squarely in that category.