"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.