Unlike his full-time band, Karate, in Secret Stars, the multi-talented Geoff Farina -- collaborating with his painter friend Jodi Buonanno -- takes a more lo-fi approach to music, freewheeling through mostly acoustic numbers. Farina and Buonanno formed Secret Stars in 1993, naming the project after talented friends of theirs who seemed to "shine in secrecy." With 20 stripped-down songs on their self-titled, full-length album, fans of Karate's more intricate, jazzy sound structures may not dig it, but it's a nice departure from that aesthetic. Buonanno has the most saccharine voice, and the few songs she sings are as perfectly pronounced as they are sad. In fact, most of the songs here are sad. And if they're not sad, they are simply Farina and Buonanno having a good time, reminiscing about their youth, perhaps. Only two very talented friends could pull off songs that reference people only they know, and still make the delivery appealing enough to woo the ears of sad, slowcore-loving indie rock kids. Though Farina's voice is pleasant, the listener may find himself wishing to hear Buonanno sing more; she does so only on about three songs. Most notable are the two tracks "Whisper: Eyelashes," and "Whisper: Heart." The lyrics in the latter hit home with anyone who has had his or her heart broken: "Hearts don't break. The division is innate ... the makeup of the brain is a mystery to this day, but it's adrenaline that makes your heart cave in ... Did you fool yourself this time, or did she simply change her mind?" The only out-of-place sounding track on this album is "Darstellung," which is really just a bunch of noise with no lyrics at all. Still, it's a nice interlude. Though Secret Stars was only active "officially" from 1993-98, don't roll the credits on the band quite yet; they've been known to perform on very special occasions. The two also perform solo gigs here and there, in addition to their other projects.
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AllMusic Review by Brendan Dabkowski