Album Review: Sally Seltmann – Heart That’s Pounding

by Katherine

New Buffalo front woman and indie crush extraordinaire Sally Seltmann has been recording under her animal moniker for over five years – so why change now?

Can we expect a radical change in direction from New Buffalo’s spangly line of indie-pop? Perhaps Sally rapping filthily over squealing guitar solos and skittering beats?

Well, not quite.   ‘Heart That’s Pounding’ is still the saucer-eyed sister of New Buffalo. But there have been a few adjustments made – ‘Heart’ is mellower, less uptight than any of New Buffalo’s efforts – it has more in common with the slowly-curling dreaminess of Beach House than any of Feist’s brightly-hued singalongs.

It relies less on pop hooks and more on sinuous strings, on incandescent synths and on glittering, unashamedly fairy-taleish textures. You can imagine Zooey Deschanel simpering sweetly along to the strains of ‘Set Me Free’, or even a plethora of rainbow ipods pirouetting to the lush ‘Dream That’s Changing’ – in short, it’s an indie rom-com soundtrack waiting to happen.  

Not that this is a bad thing – ‘Heart’ falls definitively on the more palatable end of that particular brand of floral-embossed twee. Opener ‘Harmony To My Heartbeat’s gently lilting cadences and lush electronic flourishes is immensely beguiling, and deceptively clever –Sally’s phrasings and tics are almost mantra-like, lodging themselves hypnotically, hopelessly, in your brain for weeks to come.

And ‘Book Song’ is even better – it’s the soft-edged cousin of Stars anthemic ‘Celebration Guns’, featuring gently tinkling piano and strings that swell and stretch so satisfyingly and so sublimely it’s like watching a loaf of bread puff proudly in the oven.  

Lyrically, there’s something very beguiling about ‘Heart That’s Pounding’ – she’s no poet, sure, but in a world of emotional bombast, Sally’s sentiments are refreshingly earnest, almost childlike in their simplicity – occasionally they veer into bad greeting-card territory (‘Dreams that come and go/ this is the one I’ve found forever I know.’) but just as often they hit home stronger than any nine minute opus could (‘You said I was tough, tougher than the average woman but I guess that’s not tough enough’)  

And when Sally’s song writing is a little limp, the pleasing production quirks quickly snatch the track from the gaping mouth of MOR – such as the cartoonish comedy horns on the awkward ‘Set Me Free’ and the rattling, faux-gospel organ on ‘Dark Blue Angel’.

 Sally may play the archetypical lovelorn maiden, but her ‘Heart That’s Pounding’s cheeky sonic embroidery suggests she’s presenting her lovesickness with a smile, a wink, a knowing giggle.    

It’s an irony ‘Heart That’s Pounding’ sorely needs, because sometimes Sally’s incessant optimism gets a little irritating – ‘On The Borderline’ is simply intolerable ; it’s deranged, cross-eyed buoyancy meaning it has more in common with a psychotic children’s TV theme tune than any modern-day pop song.    

Yet ultimately – excuse the shmaltz – there’s something refreshingly honest about ‘Heart That’s Pounding’ – there are no cryptically suggestive lyrics, no fashionably moody production, and no woe-is-me teenaged petulance; in short, Sally is her own woman – twee as heck, cute as a button and damn proud of it.