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Record Reviews

Sally Seltmann
Heart That’s Pounding

On third album 'Heart That’s Pounding', Sally Seltmann drops the New Buffalo moniker and embarks on a journey of self-discovery, writes DOUG WALLEN.

New Buffalo no longer, singer-songwriter-pianist Sally Seltmann has stepped from behind her longtime guise. She has also moved back to her native Sydney, but not before recording this third album in Melbourne with producer François Tétaz and a multitude of guests. The Lucksmiths’ Mark Monnone plays bass and Jessica Says’ Jessica Venables lends strings, while everyone from The Middle East to Jens Lekman contribute vocals. And as usual, Seltmann’s husband Darren isn’t far away. Despite the full cast and studio setting, these diary-like songs catalogue their author’s most private wishes and perceived defects. At the same time, she sounds newly assured, her precious melodies and wispy voice working ever towards self-discovery.

Seltmann did record some of Heart That’s Pounding in her home studio, which she “re-imagined as a teen girl’s bedroom”. And from these songs, we can easily imagine her spinning and singing to herself in that room to a daydreamed “Wall of Sound” that she was ultimately able to realise. Several songs feel borrowed from a stage musical, complete with ticklish instrumental flourishes. ‘Harmony To My Heartbeat’ introduces the album’s two sides: the whisper of vulnerability followed by the embellished build to personal revelation. All over the record, Seltmann lists what’s wrong with the picture and then uses the song to resolve things. On ‘Set Me Free’ she’s after a bit space to herself, and on ‘Book Song’ she fantasises about writing novels instead of singing in a rundown bar away from home. Just getting these feelings off her chest seems like half the battle.

“Seltmann has used her many fears and anxieties to build an album that’s uplifting enough to transform someone’s life.”

In ‘On The Borderline’, Seltmann plans to tell herself every day to get out of bed and embrace life’s possibilities. And it’s no coincidence that this includes snapping her fingers and humming a tune. Heart That’s Pounding is all about pop salvation – and music is the prime catalyst for effecting change. On ‘Dream About Changing’, Seltmann pictures herself among instruments in the back of a smashed-up car, presumably after a mid-tour prang. Departing on a flight of fancy, she imagines throwing all her worries into a deep lake. “Get over your shy inhibitions,” she orders herself before telling the world, “I’m a little bit shy”, over an uplifting chorus.

As personal as these lyrics are, they’re exhaled with such affable lightness as to never overwhelm. And the music is buoyant at every turn, relishing layered whimsy as well as inventive details. Vocal harmonies are everywhere, and a wealth of synth and piano sounds distinguish each song. New production tactics and guests show up all the time, inspiring Seltmann to hit heavenly pop-radio choruses amid her usual hushed ballads. Like her hit song ‘1234’ for Feist, the closing ‘5 Stars’ and ‘Dark Blue Angel’ resemble lullabies. She wishes us goodnight and good luck on the former, and brings in a choir of friends one last time on the latter. And yet the depth of emotion remains.

On the title track, Seltmann references Loudon Wainwright III’s plea to “save my life” in his song ‘Motel Blues’. Pointing towards success in her quest for self-therapy, she sings, “I was lost but now you found me.” It’s not merely a handy lyric, but what feels like a profound victory for its singer. While Heart That’s Pounding is sweeping and divine regardless of its forthright lyrics, Seltmann has used her many fears and anxieties to build an album that’s uplifting enough to transform someone’s life. Even her own.

  -   Published on Tuesday, April 20 2010 by Doug Wallen.
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Your Comments

Karate  said about 5 years ago:


happycow  said about 5 years ago:

Scanning for controversy...

coolsie chat  said about 5 years ago:

hehehe she said pounding

eldritch  said about 5 years ago:

Scanning for controversy...


coolsie chat  said about 5 years ago:

shut up

filterfeed  said about 5 years ago:


anok  said about 5 years ago:

great cover. looking forward to hearing this.

runoutgroove  said about 5 years ago:

yep, cover looks great. shame there is no vinyl. i picked up the album over the weekend and quite enjoying it. mrs runoutgroove has always been a fan since back in the Lustre4 days and has given it the thumbs up too. I'm kind of disappointed she dropped the New Buffalo guise though, I really liked that name and it was a nice point of difference with all the other singer/songwriter.

tinyman  said about 5 years ago:

give her the aria already.

TimChuma  said about 5 years ago:

Sold out in at least one store on the weekend.

Reisling, Rex  said about 5 years ago:

'Harmony To My Heartbeat' is just stellar songwriting.

applejohn  said about 5 years ago:

Sally reminds me from Dot from Dot and the Kangaroo.. It's a good thing.

tinyman  said about 5 years ago:

i thought i'd never get my hands on a copy of About Last Night.

turns out ms. sally is still selling them from her website. who would've thought to look there! der.

rhysholt  said about 5 years ago:

Best album i've listened to all year!

asbestos  said about 5 years ago:

About Last Night EP is her best work I reckon. 5 amazing songs.

mud  said about 5 years ago:

Totally agree. 16 Beats.

tinyman  said about 5 years ago:

i had a quick listen, to the ep i'd bought from her website. it's good, i'mgonna let you continue, it's good, but this new album is amazing.

anyway, is the About Last Night tune, the ''if you do... do it for you'' bit sampled in the Avalanches album or elsewhere? it sounds like it but i can't find the song that uses it. was it the Avalanches or was it re-used in the first New Buffalo album?

tinyman  said about 5 years ago:

after listening to both, maybe it was Gimix that sampled it. i lost that mp3 file when i switched computers.

mp3s don't last.

TimChuma  said about 5 years ago:

I am having trouble with my CD player at the moment, hopefully I don't wear out this CD playing it too much.

I might regret not having anyone to take to her show next weekend, I'll just look at the floor and ignore it if couples start getting to lovey.

mud  said about 5 years ago:

seems so insincere

Never could quite put my finger on why the new album leaves me a bit cold, but that's it, isn't it?

mud  said about 5 years ago:

Ah, that was meant to be a reply in the Dream About Changing music video thread, but oh well.

Jazzy  said about 5 years ago:

Me too, it seems so calculated and her emotions are frivolous and cute.

Popboomerang  said about 5 years ago:

i'm not enjoying this album as much as i this as i thought i would, maybe it is the happier , crisper direct tunes & lyrics, still great album - nothing to match ''harmony to my heartbeat''

Arthurly  said about 5 years ago:

Hope the album is better than the clip for the first single. TERRRRIBLE! Australians really need to stop making those cheap, cutesy, quasi-conceptual clips.

TimChuma  said about 5 years ago:

The sound was FUCKED at the Corner gig.

Exactly how could they manage to blow up the mixing desk during this band

Why can't people just shut up during the main band, I don't care that you've listened to her CD ''hundreds of times'' while she is actually singing the song!

Might have been better to just a few gigs at somewhere like the Toff/Bennetts Lane instead on the one big one.

clearsprings  said about 5 years ago:

so did the mixing desk blow up?

mud  said about 5 years ago:

Went to the Brisbane gig on Friday. Some points -

Surprisingly small audience. At The Zoo, which fits about five hundred, and it was one-third full. And to be honest, it was less full by the end.

The band is (pleasantly) a very silly-looking bunch. And a very awkward affair and stage manner, though cutely so.

Mostly new songs, not as much New Buffalo as I wanted. But fortunately -

Despite my reservations about the new album, it really clicked live. Beautiful stuff.

TimChuma  said about 5 years ago:

Sally Seltmann looked visibly flustered on stage for some reason. Do not know what happened to the mixing disk as the sound staff ran out to use the one in the main room. Am going to see Kyu today hopefully.

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  • 1.   Harmony To My Heartbeat
  • 2.   Set Me Free
  • 3.   On The Borderline
  • 4.   Book Song
  • 5.   Dream About Changing
  • 6.   Heart That’s Pounding
  • 7.   I Tossed A Coin
  • 8.   Happy
  • 9.   The Truth
  • 10.   Sentimental Seeker
  • 11.   5 Stars
  • 12.   Dark Blue Angel
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