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- Posted on Jun 18th 2010 1:00PM by Tabassum Siddiqui
But it had been a few years since listeners heard from Seltmann -- in the time since she released 2007's 'Somewhere, Anywhere' and co-wrote Feist's '1234,' the Australian singer-songwriter dropped her New Buffalo stage name, moved from Melbourne to Sydney, and undertook a major project that sidetracked the recording process for some time.
"I had a baby!" Seltmann tells Spinner. "She's 17 months now, and my husband [Darren Seltmann of Aussie electro collective the Avalanches] is playing drums in the band, so we're traveling as a family now."
And their current travels en famille brings Seltmann back to Toronto for NXNE.
"I did pre-production and stuff for the album while I was pregnant, and then gradually worked to finish it afterwards," she explains. "But I think that worked really well for me, because I think having a baby made me feel more passionate about making music. When I sit down and play music now I think, 'Hey, this is what I love doing.' It just makes me appreciate things in life more.
"And I felt more confident in myself," she continues. "I'd always hidden behind another name because I was really shy, but one of my friends suggested I should just go by my own name, and I thought, 'Why not? It's about time.' So that's why it took a little longer -- but I feel like I've made the best album I've ever done, so I think it was worth it."
'Heart That's Pounding' certainly sounds like a step forward -- the songs are fully realized, with fleshed-out arrangements and strong vocal harmonies. Working with producer/composer Francois Tetaz, the two took their time to nail down the sound she was looking for, Seltmann says.
"[Tetaz] mixed my first two albums, so I'd worked with him before and I really like what he brought to the album. It felt like I was looking at the songs like they were somebody else's poems or texts and we were studying them at university, and I really loved that. Whenever I would start to doubt music and think it was really dumb and stupid, he brings this more nuanced way of looking at it, and makes you appreciate that a really standard classic pop song can be really genius, even though it's really simple," she explains.
If Seltmann's new songs suggest a certain retro style of songwriting, that's not entirely an accident. Seltmann admits she was listening to a lot of classic pop like Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain' in the lead-up to writing the material for 'Heart That's Pounding.' But while the effervescent melodies and Seltmann's winsome, gentle vocals evoke a kind of pastoral '60s vibe, the lyrics hint at something shadowy beneath the sunny veneer.
"I always try to be not very self-conscious when I'm writing -- I just write what comes to me, and don't try to think, 'Oh, other people don't ever write about these things,' I just try to be honest with my lyrics," she says. "But there's always an underlying darkness with my music. With this album I really wanted it to be kind of more uplifting, but have that sort of 'things are not as they seem' darkness in them as well, referencing 'Twin Peaks' and 'Blue Velvet' and things like that -- I'm a big fan of David Lynch."
Another big influence on the album's vibrant sound was found a bit closer to home -- the eminently hummable, singalong quality permeating tracks like first single 'Harmony to My Heartbeat' or 'On the Borderline' were inspired by the fact that Seltmann wanted to craft addictive harmonies that were simple enough that even little ones could sing along (much as she did with Feist's catchy hit '1234').
"My daughter's really into music, totally," Seltmann says, smiling. "I remember my husband put on this crazy electronic avant-garde sort of music, and she was like, 'Ugggggh.' And then I put on my friend Lara's album -- it's really melodic with lots of harmonies -- and she just loved it," she laughs. "I think kids just naturally develop that knack for melody. You think about all those enduring things like 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,' where the melody is so strong that it's like it pulls you in. I think there's definitely something to that."
Seltmann's North by Northeast stop is part of Seltmann's first North American tour since 2005, and also her first with a full band. After a practice run earlier this year at touring with her family, she's feeling comfortable with the arrangement.
"[The baby] has been settling in and adapting to the road nicely, and working with my husband has been great -- I feel very lucky that he's in the band," she says, dismissing any notions that spending too much time together might be problematic. "It's like my dream come true. He produced my first EP, and we'll probably do a record together at some point. The Avalanches are supposed to be finishing an album," she confesses, "but I kind of stole Darren away to come touring with me!"
Sally Seltmann hits the stage at Toronto's Supermarket at 9PM on Fri. June 18 as part of NXNE.