New Buffalo Somewhere, Anywhere

[Arts & Crafts; 2007]

Styles: indie rock, indie pop, singer/songwriter
Others: Feist, Beth Orton, Keren Ann

Under the pseudonym New Buffalo, Australian pop songstress Sally Seltmann has released only two full-lengths and two EPs, yet she's already covered vast sonic territory. Leading up to the most recent Somewhere, Anywhere, Seltmann often used multitracking and electronics to create lush soundscapes for her compositions, giving them an otherworldy, ethereal quality. This worked well, but it was always apparent that Seltmann's sweet voice alone was the most important factor in giving shape to her music. If anyone had any doubts about this fact, those should now be erased with the blissful results of her new scaled-back and stripped-down approach.

While there are small embellishments to enjoy -- a hint of clarinet, a whisper of saxophone, etc. -- so much of Somewhere, Anywhere centers on the simplicity of piano and voice or acoustic guitar and voice. "Cheer Me Up Thank You" is a gentle feather of a song that blows in on a breeze of vocal harmonies and continues to swirl and dip without ever really touching the ground. The simple lyrical sentiment of thanking a friend for cheering her up sets the tone for the album. This is not about tortured love or broken hearts, but rather a celebration of the restorative and fulfilling powers of companionship, even when one is in a position of desperately seeking it.

Somewhere, Anywhere is an album of contentment, but in no way is it one of complacence. Paring the songs down to essential components, Seltmann breathes a whole new life into the New Buffalo persona. Some latecomers might find her sound to be suspiciously similar to Feist's The Reminder, but it's important to point out that there is an explicit connection there. The current iPod commercial theme song "1234" was co-written by none other than Ms. Seltmann, and it is easily the finest song of Feist's latest batch. In a way, one might think of Somewhere, Anywhere as an essential companion to that other album. 2007 has been blessed with these two truly exceptional female singer/songwriter efforts, and it would be a shame for a fan of one to miss out on the other.

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