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An Ageless Beauty Gets a Timeless Remake

The members of Stars followed their 2005 album <em>Set Yourself on Fire</em> by having their peers remake it.
The members of Stars followed their 2005 album Set Yourself on Fire by having their peers remake it.

In its early years, Stars was known mostly for breathlessly effervescent power-pop nuggets like "Elevator Love Letter." But three albums into the band's discography, 2005's outstanding Set Yourself on Fire found it broadening its ambitions, examining troubled relationship dynamics and world politics with incisiveness and grace. It even found room for yet another perfectly fizzy pop gem in "Ageless Beauty" (audio).

Two years later, it should be time for a new Stars disc, but its members have been busy with other projects: Amy Millan made a solo disc, Torquil Campbell put out a CD with a band called Memphis, and so on. Consequently, the follow-up to Set Yourself on Fire is literally a remake, in which 13 of the group's peers cover the disc song for song. The title: Do You Trust Your Friends?

The results are decidedly mixed: For example, it's hard to imagine anyone improving on the original, achingly bittersweet "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead." But The Most Serene Republic does a terrific job reinventing "Ageless Beauty" without discarding Millan's candy-sweet vocal track. Replacing the propulsive power-pop arrangement of the original with a rustically chugging lope, the remix clatters along charmingly — above all else demonstrating the sturdy versatility of an expertly crafted pop gem.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)