With Heart That’s Pounding, Sally Seltmann steps out from behind her New Buffalo moniker to deliver her first album released under her own name. It’s a subtle difference, but then Heart That’s Pounding is a subtle album, despite its pumped-up title. The sound and tone of these songs are more or less in keeping with Seltmann’s New Buffalo fare; once again, her voice works equally well in girl group homages, reflective folk, and just about anything in between. However, her songwriting is more direct, and she manages to accomplish something that stymies many writers: crafting happy songs that don’t sound smug or cloying. Heart That’s Pounding is all about being in a more-or-less satisfying relationship and the challenges that presents. Seltmann sounds just as convincing on the contented “Harmony to My Heartbeat,” which celebrates togetherness, as she does on “Set Me Free,” where she asks for a little breathing room from all this bliss. As the saying goes, happiness writes white, and while Seltmann makes the most of the relatively narrow emotional range Heart That’s Pounding occupies, at times the album seems in danger of disappearing into a serenely sugary fog, since her voice is so wispy and songs like “On the Borderline” and “5 Stars” blend into an (admittedly lovely) blur. Despite her skill at crafting layered aural confections, the album is most striking when Seltmann goes for an intimate sound and confessional lyrics. “Book Song”’s chamber pop gives listeners the space to get into Seltmann’s world, and sounds like a lost song from Nico’s Chelsea Girl to boot; the album closer “Dark Blue Angel” offers a cautionary tale about keeping out sadness set to profoundly simple folk. Meanwhile, the clever storytelling on “Dream About Changing” and the doo wop coda on “I Tossed a Coin” prove that there’s more going on in Heart That’s Pounding than listeners may pick up on the first time around. A truly cozy album, these are songs that Seltmann can be proud to call her own.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares