Somewhere Else by Sally Shapiro

Somewhere Else by Sally Shapiro

 

There used to be a time – before the advent of the Internet, before you could look up entire biographies and pore over interviews, reviews, and live recorded performances at the click of a button – when artists actually used to be mysterious. You would hear this awesome new band out of goodness-knows-where on your local blues station, or maybe your friend who worked at the record store down the street lent you a sample of this underrated sax soloist that nobody knew about. Word-of-mouth, rumours, scanning print music media for snippets… every jewel of information extracted was worth it, adding to the repository of music knowledge you could impress your friends with.

 

Fast-forward to the age of overexposure and saturation, where it has become nearly impossible not to know certain factoids about your favorite musicians. Everyone has a MySpace page, a regularly-updated website, a YouTube feed, not to mention the countless fan message boards and music blogs. And there’s always Google, almost waiting for you ask questions like “Why did Lissie get expelled from school?”, “Did Gary Lightbody really suffer from alcohol addiction?”, “How did Alanis Morissette end up being sexually abused as a teenager?” Nothing is sacred.

 

Not only does this culture of information overload destroy the privacy for the artists involved, it also diminishes a natural fascination with the unknown. Over-familiarity and a constant presence in the media breeds jadedness. If you want your audiences to stick around, you need to keep things fresh, which in turn means giving them a break. Not just from your music, but from yourself. Better to go dark, and return in a blaze of glory when everyone is desperate to know what you’ve been up to.

 

Nobody understands this better than Sally Shapiro. An incredibly shy person (she refuses to perform live, or let her producer in the room when she is recording), the Swedish singer teamed up with Italo disco maestro Johan Ajebjörn a few years back to release material under that pseudonym. Shapiro isn’t her real name: nobody knows what it is, and she refuses to give interviews so it is unlikely any of us will find out soon.

 

By cutting herself off from the hype machine, she raises her enigmatic aura by a factor of ten. Compare her to say, Pink, whose self-centered songs are specific to her life. You accept that without question. But since you don’t have the first clue about Shapiro, that anonymous voice could just as easily be your imaginary girlfriend soothing you after a rough day.

 

If Disco Romance (2006) and My Guilty Pleasure (2009) established Shapiro as your nice little indie New-Wave/Italo-Disco fix – with vocals that contradicted the snazzy attitude of 80s club music – the appropriately christened Somewhere Else marks a departure into more mellow, easy-listening territory. Formulaic dancepop – even those that carry her hypnotic voice – eventually gets boring, so it’s very encouraging to see her take the brave leap and experiment with her style.

 

TRACKLIST:
#1. Prescript 0:40
#2. I Dream With An Angel Tonight 3:49
#3. All My Life 4:01
#4. This City’s Local Italo Disco DJ Has A Crush On Me 3:31
#5. What Can I Do 3:34
#6. If It Doesn’t Rain 4:49
#7. Sundown 3:54
#8. Starman (feat. Electric Youth) 4:47
#9. Lives Together 3:55
#10. Don’t Be Afraid (feat. Anoraak) 4:12
#11. Architechtured Love (feat. Le Prix) 4:21
#12. Postscript 3:36

 

PERSONNEL:
Sally Shapiro: Vocals
Johan Agebjörn: Instrumentation, Percussion, Mixing

 

PRODUCER:
Johan Agebjörn
Roger Gunnarsson
Tensnake

 

DATE OF RELEASE:
26th February, 2013

 

SINGLES:
What Can I Do

 

Luckily for her, Ajebjörn perceives this tonal change immediately, and dials back on pretty much everything. Thumping percussion is eliminated in favor of more laid-back disco pads. Forceful synths have been replaced by shimmering atmospherics, while the traditional distorted and chunky bass has been chucked in favor of smoother, deeper lines. Shapiro has always relied on melody more than crazy drops or addictive beats, but Somewhere Else is by far her catchiest, hookiest collection of songs yet.

 

Bookended by the largely instrumental Prescript/Postscript, the record eases in with the melancholic pop of I Dream With An Angel Tonight, which achingly describes how the protagonist copes with a break-up (“Finding comfort in my own embrace / My truth is only a lie”). It is surprisingly complex for a dance track, with scale changes and technical flourishes aplenty. It also serves as the perfect prelude for the much more accessible (and upbeat) All My Life, which rolls about in soft-dance heaven with its retro keyboards and house leads.

 

Perhaps the most characteristic track here is the bass-heavy This City’s Local Italo Disco DJ Has A Crush On Me. Driven by funky electronica and a na-na-nah chorus, the glimmering percussion coupled with muted guitars underscore the fact that this is something only Shapiro could have written. That’s followed by the gentle, flute-laced What Can I Do, which is an odd choice for a lead single as it plays like a B-side hybrid of a Fleetwood Mac demo and an early ABBA stock single.

 

The relentless Eurobeat of If It Doesn’t Rain transitions to the slower, R&B/soul flavors of Sundown, both of which hold down the middle quite well. It is the Electric Youth-produced Starman where things start to unravel. An unmemorable and hook-less track, it is followed by the equally unremarkable (though pacier) trance-influenced Lives Together.

 

Thankfully the album recovers with an alternate version of the Anoraak-produced New Wave bonus Don’t Be Afraid, an excursion into dreamy, nostalgic French house. The penultimate Architectured Love, featuring Stockholm-based DJ/vocalist Le Prix is another highlight, with anticipation and angst gradually giving way to sedated bliss on this semi-duet track.

 

 

 

 

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