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The Cars Are the Stars, Fragments

reviewed by dave heaton

The songs on Fragments don't feel fragmented, but they do feel like snapshots...fragments of memory. The Cars Are the Stars use music to transport you to particular states of being. The song titles "Hotel Roma" and "Kastrup Airport" double as place names, and both songs use ambient sound to help make you feel like you're in a place. But the music makes you feel that way anyway, even the conversations floating around your ears. This is what people like me mean when we throw around words like "otherworldly": we mean it makes you feel like you're in another world.

Being brought to a particularly vivid new musical place echoes within you in complicated ways, making you recall places you've been before while feeling unsteady (like how you go somewhere new and see a scene that takes you back to somewhere you were when you were 5 years old). The Cars Are the Stars' music contains echoes from much music I've heard and loved before - there's something of Boards of Canada's spooky but pretty electronics here, maybe something of Air's atmospheric electro-pop, but also a gritty 'indie-rock' feeling in it all. The song "True", for example, gives off a definite air of both Sonic Youth and Arab Strap. I also get a similarly feeling at times as I do from Radiohead and Sigur Ros; yet on the surface the groups have nothing in common with The Cars Are the Stars, they're similarly forward-looking, and have a similarly awe-inspiring grasp on the power of small sonic details. All of these musical reference points arise in my brain yet disappear quickly, as Fragments feels so dynamic and fresh that it stands in its own place. It's not like anything you know even as familiar ghosts linger.

Fragments is the French collective's second album; the first album was released under the name Playdoh. The group consists of seven members: six musicians and a video artist. It seems logical that they'd have visuals to accompany the music - something about their music feels especially "cinematic", meaning big and colorful and stylish. Yet I'm also not sure if I want to ever see the visuals, as the music itself inspires so many images and feelings on its own.

This album comes to North American listeners like myself courtesy of Chez Moi Records, a new label devoted to bringing new European music across the ocean for the first time. That's an exciting prospect, given how remarkable Fragments is and how thankful I am for getting to hear it. "My heart ain't same" is a key lyrics from one of Fragments' songs, but it also describes the emotional impact that The Cars Are the Stars' songs have. They're mood-pieces, in a way, but they're also thoroughly involving, filled with moments and feelings that stay behind long after the CD has ended.

www.chezmoirecords.com, www.thecarsarethestars.net


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