Album Review: Selmer – Body Wash

[777 Music; 2024]

January releases are a curious kind. Tucked away at the start of the year when everyone is weaning themselves off of the jingle bells and festive sounds ringing in their ears, it could be argued it’s an ideal time to capture listeners’ attention. Not distracted by a slew of built up highlights from months past, a fresh release for a new year has a lot of appeal. 

This rings true for Julian Stelander Karlsson (aka Selmer). His debut album, Body Wash, is perfectly suited for that slow process of regaining traction after a winter break. It’s an album for lazy mornings and sleepy eyes; it lures you into lingering in bed for a little longer as much as it gives you just the right amount of pep to start the day. The title track itself is a chirpy number with a hook that could sell crates of the titular object; you can practically smell the percolating zesty scents in the twanging guitar notes.

The bathroom was Karlsson’s area of inspiration, capturing that introspective and ruminative state that comes with long steams and soaks in the shower. “Hot Steam in the Morning” is just this, drifting by on a dreamy bed of soft brass and synths while “Waking Up & Making Out” dresses itself in sultry, indolent, and pillowy horns, a smooth jazz-inspired tune that has no intentions of staying anything other than horizontal. This is Karlsson’s strength showing: taking cues from Mac DeMarco, Joseph Shabason, and outfits like Office Culture, his voice is light and charmingly alluring. He also has a real knack for duvet-warm hooks that lounge about in your head all day. On “She’s Gone” he has some wordplay right out of the Charlie Kaplan songbook. “Tasty like a pint / Much finer than wine / More sour than a lime / From time to time,” he reminisces before a sweetly infectious chorus kicks in.

So honeyed is Karlsson’s delivery and surroundings that it can be easy to miss the unsavoury characters hiding between the lines. “So Sorry” sounds sincere and breezy at first glance but it’s exploring a toxic persona pining after another. “I’m sorry / Tell me what to do / When I get the green light i’ll be coming back to you,” he sings with a sleazy smirk, fully aware that he doesn’t think he did anything wrong in the first place and needs to be told how to remedy the situation. (The Paul Cherry remix is also a pleasing reprise that explores fluttery 60s/70s folk-pop avenues, and it could easily have been slotted into the album’s tracklist.) 

Likewise, the tone of Karlsson’s pining on aforementioned “She’s Gone” might be mellifluous, but it’s hiding an obsessive streak. Meanwhile, groggy opening track “Miss Me”, with its light R&B wash, is sensuously taunting. Guest vocalist (and fellow Norwegian) JEZ_EBEL goads Karlsson to “miss me again” with a dreamy enticement across the song’s four minutes, creating an effect akin to returning to a conscious reality after a deep sleep. While it does mean the album takes a little while to hit a stride, it fits in the theme of Body Wash, all half-awake murmurings and lazy stretches. 

Similarly Body Wash closes with one of its more curious sonic excursions. “Washed Up” is a spaghetti Western-like instrumental, the velvety brass, lonesome guitar chords, and Morricone-inspired whistle all making for a surprisingly dramatic moment. Oddly it fits, painting with a monochrome/melancholic blue hue that contrasts the sunnier colours the preceding tracks sport. Its theatrical flair leaves the album hanging on a museful but strangely hopeful note. At the very least it’s the sound of finally throwing off the duvet, opening the curtains, and facing the day ahead.