|Rating: 3.5 / 5
Reviewer: David Coats
Australian-born Sally Seltmann released two LPs under her New Buffalo moniker before rising to fame as co-writer of Feist’s 2007 monster single ‘1234.’ That song was a near perfect-storm of pop music, and while there isn’t anything on Seltmann’s new release, Heart That’s Pounding, quite in that same league, her gifts as a songwriter are nonetheless undeniable.
This record is an absolute tour de force of shining, bold pop melodies, while lyrically, Seltmann writes with growing self-confidence, sometimes with disarming literalness (“I’ll raise my glass to the concept of understanding who I am / and how this can make a difference to the world”). Songs like ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Book Song’ read like efficient, rather than self-indulgent, diary entries. Seltmann’s voice, while not as dynamic as Feist’s, is nonetheless beautiful and warm. Her sense of sonic adventure remains well behind nearly all of her Arts & Crafts label mates, but you can’t help but get the feeling that her idea of adventure is tied to her identity, rather than particular instrumentation or recording techniques, and she’s more open about inviting listeners along on that adventure than she’s been before. As such, the refrain of closer ‘Dark Blue Angel’ (“Goodbye dark blue angel / I will never let you in”) is profound as a declaration of communal and personal freedom.
The record’s only real limitation is that, unlike Feist, who mastered the art of in-the-moment vulnerability on The Reminder, Seltmann’s songs come across a little as though the vulnerability was done earlier, and this is her celebration of being strong enough to be vulnerable. It’s a subtle difference that may be due to the relentlessly sunny musical atmosphere. This isn’t the record where Seltmann puts everything together, but Heart That’s Beating assures us she’ll get there yet.