“Bright Stars Burning” is a big step forward for Hey Marseilles. The song, released in advance of the band’s upcoming album, Lines We Trace (March 5), has moved past the celebratory pomp that earned the orchestral pop band’s debut, To Travels and Trunks, much of its fawning praise. On that album, the band’s string section, accordion and horns shone, but they also often undermined the darkness of the romantic ballads penned by leader Matt Bishop. Things have changed. The pop orchestra is still here, but it is understated, creating a sound that begins brooding and ends anxious, fitting for the song’s lyric. Bishop, though still wistful in his croon, has written a song that is decidedly dark. Its language is opaque, filled with redundant, jumbled sentences and vague declarations that read like the inner dialogue of a frustrated lover, post-jilt.
This isn’t new subject matter for the band, but the music is finally appropriate. No one should confuse this song for a travelogue of missed opportunities, careless affairs and imagined infidelities as they did similar songs of the band’s past; this is a song about very real, cold abandonment. It is also, so far, the most powerful song the band has released.