"Heart on a String," from Eric Tollefson's new album The Polar Ends, evokes the big-band title "I've Got the World on a String." Tollefson's album is big, brimming with horns and string arrangements, but his sentiment is far more complex than a Sinatra standard. He sings, "I've got my heart on a string. / It's bound in blood and gasoline."
The Seattle-based singer-songwriter (via Juneau, Alaska, and Bend, Ore.) and UM graduate went from playing small venues to opening for G. Love & Special Sauce. This album is the next step up—painstakingly produced and dynamically crafted. "Sister Sarah" is deliciously strutting. "Leo" shimmers with a Police vibe. "Whose Love" is sizzling and sexy with Latin horns and backup singers, but it's laced with heartbreak, too. Tollefson's attention to details like "candy-cane shoes" roots each tune. A few songs are very college rock in their blues-funk style but are not generic. I love the ballad "Before You Go" best because of the sweet pedal steel and the way it evokes The Animals's version of "Bring It on Home." Most apparent is that Tollefson is delightfully versatile: With his charisma, pop hooks and rich soundscapes, he could score something as hip as the CW's "The Vampire Diaries" and also be taken seriously at a top-notch rock festival.
Bend Oregon singer/songwriter Eric Tollefson's sophomore album The Polar Ends, levitates in that space between blues and pop so well, it begs for the emotional response associated with the blues while still staying catchy and sing-a-long worthy. The release is a giant leap from the singer’s debut album and is filled with much more of Tollefson's heart. Evidence of that is found upfront on the record’s first track, “Heart On A String”. Cleverly, the song opens with cello and scratches the itch for redemption that sets in when we fall short of an ideal relationship. From there, Tollefson launches into a foursome of rough and tumble songs with raw edges that dig deep into the listener’s skin. The guitar on these tracks helps to construct beats as much as the drums do. In fact, there is such defined tempo in the guitar work that, these songs could easily stand on their own without percussion. Horns added to the cut “Whose Love” by members of Brooklyn band Rubblebucket are perhaps the most welcome contribution on the entire album and when paired with the blues rock foundation, displace your heart into your gut. Before the heart can rise to its correct location, Tollefson allows it to linger lower a little longer with the gritty track “Render Me Helpless”. A song that features pedal steel player Eric Heywood (of Son Volt and Ray Lamontagne), “Render” speaks to the darkness of relational desperation. There isn’t a single track on The Polar Ends that doesn’t rise and fall just as the human heart can. It is a collection of eight songs that contain descriptions of mankind as seen from a distance as much as from close up and personal. In some ways it can be devastating and in some ways uplifting… just like life.