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Stars | Heart (Setanta)
For all its programmed drums and '80s boy/girl pop hangover, 'Heart' seduces because, at its best, it delivers more heavyweight hooks per three minutes than Joe Louis in his prime. Openly influenced by Brit 'greats' The Blue Nile, Prefab Sprout et al, this Montreal-based quartet wrote and produced themselves before handing over to Ian Catt (St. Etienne, Trembling Blue Stars) and Dave Hodge (Bran Van 3000, Wu-Tang Clan) for mixing duties. The result is a lush, unashamedly romantic eleven-strong set of songs that switch between the breathy, Joe MacAlinden/Kevin Tihista-esque vocals of Torquil Campbell and the utterly disarming tones of Amy Millan who also doubles-up as the band's guitarist.

From the outset the record oozes charm, not least on the subdued, almost Tram-like Don't Be Afraid To Sing, the exuberant Elevator Love Letter, the delicious title-track and their recent single, Romantic Comedy, which boasts one of those choruses that'll have advocates everywhere pulling their hair out trying to shake. Yes, it might send the blood-sugar soaring at times, but like a big bag of pick 'n' mix, Stars' soft centres and zesty flavours are begging to be dipped into when you need a lift.

Matt Dornan
March-April 2003