Sally Shapiro – My Guilty Pleasure (2009)


Despite coming from a band who notoriously shun the limelight, Swedish duo Sally Shapiro’s new record isn’t the ideal soundtrack for wallflowers. It might open with the atmospherically swooshy ’Swimming Through The Blue Lagoon’, with the anonymous singer’s wordless, dreamlike murmurs floating over twinkling keyboards, but My Guilty Pleasure soon breaks into track after track of addictive, synth-driven electro-pop. This is no mere exercise in bubblegum nostalgia; the beats and chord progressions are once again lovingly produced in the style of new Italo disco, of the type that label Italians Do It Better have been popularising over the last few years. Label boss Mike Simonetti is, by his own admission, “down with Sally”, and given that Sally Shapiro’s production half Johan Agebjörn has remixed for IDIB signing Glass Candy, this relationship is more than pure homage.

While some could dismiss the entire new wave of Italo disco as shameless theft from a now-trendy ’80s genre, it’s clear that Sally Shapiro are a cut above. With their previous album Disco Romance championed by tastemaker critics – not to mention a pair of remix albums with contributors ranging from the DFA-signed The Juan MacLean to Canadian noiseniks Holy Fuck – Sally Shapiro are becoming rather expert at constructing appealing reinterpretations of the origins of the genre. In the remarkably and justifiably confident My Guilty Pleasure, Agebjörn has produced another record that contributes beautifully to a still-growing scene. So confident are they that first single ‘Miracle’ is left until last, and the justification comes with the fact that it’s preceded by a full complement of potential hits, ensuring that this is one of those records that you’re almost certainly going to hear about increasingly as the summer (such that it is) unfolds.

Given her Scandinavian origins, it’s perhaps unsurprising that ‘Sally’ is in possession of a voice that recalls both Annie and Robyn, but where Robyn would hit a key change Agebjörn deftly takes the direction elsewhere. His brand of dreamy, dry-ice electro never puts a beat wrong and creates a record full of dark overtones but also upbeat. On tracks like ‘Moonlight Dance’ and ‘Dying In Africa’, he’s not afraid to elongate and develop a musical theme. You suspect this could be because he is able to spend hours in the studio perfecting a certain piece, but in fact Agebjörn is a Gothenburg-based accountant with a young family. It’s this laidback and somewhat lo-fi approach that characterises Sally Shapiro over Lindstrøm, say.

Having never performed live, the duo exist as recorded music only. While this is partly attributed to the singer’s reluctance to perform in front of an audience, it’s refreshingly unusual in an era of over-hyped music, and particularly electronic bands who espouse style over substance. My Guilty Pleasure is no vanity project, but it looks unlikely that Sally Shapiro will be able to capitalise fully on their success without first hurdling the obstacle of live performance. Hopefully electronica-obsessed wallflowers everywhere will be joining them for the next stage of their emergence from the shadows.

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