It is safe to say that Steffaloo’s third LP Heart Beats was a bit unexpected.
Having not heard anything extensive about it before listening, the all-electronic album threw me for a bit of loop. I needed to verify, more than once, that this was the same Steffaloo (her real name is Steph Thompson) who previously recorded Meet Me in Montauk and Would You Stay (both minimalistic folk pop affairs).
However, as the album went on, Steffaloo’s signature minimalism became more and more evident, despite the musical change from acoustic to electronica. The opening “Made to Love You” is actually quite similar in the simplicity and experimentation as heard on her earlier works. The beats come and go sans smoothness, yet the arrangement doesn’t really kill the tempo.
The Chrome Sparks-produced “Eyes For You” is definitely a highlight, which Tiffology accurately describes as Thompson’s “soft vocals [floating] over a shimmering synth beat.” Kind of like the song you hear playing over a whirlwind love montage from a Miley Cyrus-starring teen romance movie.
A few songs on the album are about her first love and subsequent heartbreak. “Shoulda Known Better” is more or less about the process: living, learning, and growing up. Steffaloo repeatedly sings out “I couldn’t help myself,” which everyone can sympathize in one way or another.
Thompson steps a bit out of her comfort zone by significantly working with electronic producers (and a different one for each album track) such as Stumbleine and Sun Glitters. As Thompson wrote on her blog, these collaborations were unique since “normally I do it at my own pace [and] I have time to really feel the track and see what kinds of emotion and ideas it conjures up. Attempting to do [12 collaborations] at one time was a whole other story.”
In many ways, Heart Beats is eerily consistent, both structurally and thematically as a standalone album and as an extension of her previous two albums. Instead of silence or minimal strings and drums, there is synth and reverb; all of which exists to give pause for reflection, but this time around there doesn’t seem to be enough of Thompson’s vocals to reflect on.
Perhaps the poetic lyrics are here but I just can’t hear them. Or maybe the electronic sounds are too distracting.