Heart (Arts & Crafts)

Stars 

Heart (Arts & Crafts)

Sleek synthpop quartet Stars crafts the sonic equivalent of IKEA furniture: stylish and functional tunes that incorporate both streamlined classicism and the occasional funky flourish. Heart's soul-melting songs include trip-hoppy fluttering flute loops ("The Vanishing"), muted horns and watery piano ("Heart") and loping keyboards ("The Woods"). Lead crooner and sometime-actor Torquil Campbell emotes with the soft enunciation of Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard; alongside singer Amy Millan's huskier vocals, the resemblance calls to mind Gibbard's Postal Service side project on "Look Up" and "Elevator Love Letter." Nevertheless, Heart's beat mostly thumps for the memory of sparkling Human League and jangling New Order and the Smiths. The brisk standout "Death to Death" is an icy slice of stylized robot pop with biting guitar barbs hooked into techno swirls and an antagonistic I am destroyer/I am lover chorus call. Otherwise, Heart's drifting jams are often sterile and monotonous, the very traits that make those trendy IKEA accessories so popular.

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