“Oh-oh-oh. You’re changing your heart. Oh-oh-oh. You know who you are.” You’ve heard the song. “1234” it’s called. If you haven’t, it’s about time you did listen to it. A minor indie hit sensation crossing over into the mainstream and a turn point in Leslie Feist’s career, even if it relied heavily on clever marketing and product placement walking the thin line of indie authenticity and mainstream accessibility. The whole of The Reminder is a splendid example of this kind of barrier-crushing, cross-over potential albums.
If you have by now listened to “1234” and fallen in love with it, as the rest of the world has, the logical step is, actually, not to check out the rest of Feist’s hit album but to head into Sally Seltmann‘s Heart That’s Pounding. Seltmann co-wrote that song and won some recognition for her own moniker New Buffalo for it. The Last Beautiful Day (2004) and Somewhere, Anywhere (2007) presented her brand of cooing chamber pop.
In the fashion of Owen Pallett this year, Seltmann dropped the moniker in favor of the real authentic name just to record a record grander than ever before. More polished, more structured and more accessible than ever, Seltmann still delivers music from the chamber for the chambers. Even though the arrangements of her classic indie pop are her most worked through and ambitious yet, Heart That’s Pounding is far more generic and less adventurous than her two previous quieter albums. Choirs occasionally emphasize moments of visceral cuteness, the 60’s soul stomp drumming that indie pop has borrowed so many times before is present too and a set of strings on the charmingly mawkish “Book Song” confirm the indications that moreso than before, Seltmann is on a pedestal emanating a pop madame aura that leads my thoughts toward Feist, Tracey Thorn, Sharleen Spiteri and other mature female performers who handle the classic pop heritage and its traditions from the 60s, 70s and 80s with great care.
Maturity is a signum that seems to be right in time, Hot Chip’s One Life Stand reads like one long celebration of one life stands and there’s the same sense of settling down in Seltmann on Heart That’s Pounding. It’s relieving to hear someone singing about the wonders and mishaps of a steady relationship or a longing for one and the sense of being as far away from radio-friendly beats and club-friendly synthesizers, suggesting promiscuity but dressing it up a bit, as possible. “You’re the harmony to my heartbeat” sings Seltmann on opening track and highlight “Harmony To My Heartbeat”. The tone is set right away and lingers throughout. The sweetness, the dignity and the solid craftsmanship, that makes it perfectly clear why Heart That’s Pounding is released on Arts & Craft, is almost overwhelming. It’s sheer bliss and glorious perfection at first listen but eventually I get vibes and recognize the style and values from another similar but unexpected place. Former ABBA-member Agnetha FÃ¤ltskog released a comeback album in 2004 called My Colouring Book and already upon reading its title you could guess what kind of fireplace-pop that album was chockfull of.
While Heart That’s Pounding wades in the same kind of warm, cozy, sugary substance that after all is irresistible for its earnest tone and therapeutic values, it still differs by fore mostly comprising only original material that doesn’t contain an obvious hit but never dips in quality, but also by actually involving me emotionally. For real. It rises above that mawkish background music and MOR indie because I get the feeling that every word, no matter how much a cliché that word is, is heartfelt. Seltmann is more direct than ever before as she was a little more sketchy lyrically on the two previous albums. Sometimes the truth that is needed is more obvious than we thought and originality suddenly seems less relevant.
Even though titles like “Happy”, “Dream About Changing”, and “Sentimental Seeker” give away a little too much information about the songs there’s still plenty to be enticed by and a lot to cherish among Seltmann’s gems. A breathing, organic, and living proof of true love’s existence, Heart That’s Pounding reveals the heart that’s pounding behind anti-exciting, well-polished arrangements and stylistic platitudes – a heart mature enough to not care for trends, today’s frenetic search for something unique or a fear of coming across as cheesy. Those old teenage hopes are alive at your door. You know the rest.