Approaching the follow-up to an album you adored is a tricky thing -- there are all those expectations to wade through. Luckily, Montreal/Toronto soft-focus popsters Stars more than live up to last year's endlessly charming Heart with their latest, Set Yourself on Fire. Universal. 2004.
Sure they look pretty and sound pretty and all, but is this Montreal-based quartet ever going to amount to much, you know in the course of "rock history"? Very likely, if their captivating third album, Set Yourself on Fire
, is any indication. Vocalists Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell have never harmonized better together, and the whole keyboard-heavy band is at that delectable place where they transcend their influences. Great pop music is not about "originality" (nor has it ever much been); its a passionate marriage of idea and conviction. Sure, you can still hear the mark of Beulah
, the Smiths
, New Order
, Broken Social Scene
and Super Furry Animals
in their songs. But the group has never been as confident with their marriage of lush, exuberant dreampop and dark, clever lyrics as they are here. --Mike McGonigal