I really enjoyed Steffaloo's 2012 record Would You Stay, which was a heart-rending breakup album done with her delicate voice and acoustic guitar fed through some distortion. Good stuff, if a little on the melancholy side.
So what does she do to follow up? She works with twelve different electronic musicians, collaborating to add her voice to a variety of beats and electronica styles. It's pretty fascinating, and very diverse.
I find this to be a very interesting release, but it is basically like a remix album, and i have heard from label people that remix albums sell very poorly. That makes it kind of a gutsy choice for her third album. Just what are you up to, Steffaloo? Where are you going with this? Does Heart Beats point to a new direction for your career?
Well, i suppose only time will tell. Let's examine the twelve songs on this release.
The record kicks of this the shiny, bright techno of Made To Love You (Feat. Andrea). Steffaloo's voice is a little distorted, making it deeper, and it paired with big shiny beats and hand claps. A decent start.
Eyes For You (Feat. Chrome Sparks) burbles and sparkles. Her voice reminds me of Berlin's Terri Nunn, although that might be because Chrome Sparks layers in a warbling synth bass. So 80s, and i really like it. This is a fun tune that sways along happily. Her voice really shines here.
Lovesick (Feat. Gracie) is another, happy little dance pop tune, but Steffaloo mixes it up for You're Not There (Feat. Stumbleine). This is shoegazey, with layers of echoing guitar, big booming drums, and her voice all hazy. This sounds almost like a Tamaryn song, except for the clipped electro beat. The guitars are reminiscent of Guthrie during Violet Indiana. Great stuff.
Things slow down for the minimal Shoulda Known Better (Feat. Different Sleep). Here, a beat clicks and faint tones waver under her voice. Young (Feat. Slow Magic) is a slow burner that starts with throbbing synths and ends with spastic drum machine and her voice in layers. Pretty nice.
Sweet Talker (Feat. Magical Mistakes) is interesting. It is a tune of faint strummed guitar and odd popping noises. It's kind of sparse, but grooves along nicely, her voice breathier than usual. This is the most "remix like" of the songs presented here. That is, the acoustic guitar and voice part could have gone on Would You Stay. However, the acoustic pop is twisted, distorted, layered, and paired with a spastic beat and odd burbling noises.
On Don't Wanna Cry (Feat. Nknwn) Steffaloo's voice is layered, one normal and one slowed down to make her sound like Barry white. She sings over big, booming, reverbing hits. This is Steffaloo done as slow dubstep, and kind of reminds me of the last The xx record.
My least favorite tune on the record is next, Come Talk To Me (Feat. Moon Bounce). The song burbles and pops like mellow hip-hop, but her voice is somehow nasally. Steffaloo has never sounded nasally to me before. What is wrong with her vocal track here?
It's back to The xx comparisons on Miss You (Feat. Shak). A guitar line strums by in the background, under a slow clicking beat and her voice in nice layers. A mellow, late night jam. When I'm Happy (Feat. Sun Glitters) is another slow tune, her voice echoing over a slow, head-bopping beat and some reverbing synth sounds. Sun Glitters layers in some other voices in some kind of sample, and her strummed guitar wanders by. I like this. It's a happy little tune.
And finally we have Sunshine (Feat. Eliot), where synths drone in layers, some droning some tinkling, under her voice and big beats that burst in layers. It is a dramatic sounding song, and a good end to the record.
I find that there is a lot to like here. It is a good, diverse record, with lots going on. I like that she chose a different collaborator for each tune, even if some worked out better than others. It is a nice introduction to a range of musicians.
I am curious to see what Steffaloo does next.