Critic's Choice

In the iconography of childhood, hearts and stars are crayon-scrawled hieroglyphs symbolizing love, hope and wonder. Fittingly, Heart is the title of the newest album by Canadian outfit Stars, which will appear on Monday, March 15, at the Climax Lounge, with the Dears and George & Caplin. The band's throwback synth pop -- a demure, wide-eyed style that recalls the Field Mice and New Order -- wallows in nostalgic naivete while casting satellite-sized hooks to the heavens. Originally a two-man recording project comprising singer Torquil Campbell and keyboardist Chris Seligman, the duo was joined by Amy Millan and Evan Cranley of Toronto's protean indie-rock orchestra Broken Social Scene (which, coincidentally, performs at the Bluebird Theater on Saturday, March 13). The result was a warm, tender reincarnation of frigid '80s dance pop that aligned perfectly with contemporaries such as the Postal Service and Her Space Holiday. As retro as the Stars approach sounds, though, it isn't all Casios and Kid Video; there's a bracing cynicism and weary sense of humor to Campbell's lyrics that complement the group's deceptively dense and complex arrangements, which are augmented by French horns, trombones, echoing guitar and Millan's ingenue-like backups. When it comes to wearing hearts on sleeves, Stars shines.


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