David Grellier takes College even further away from its synth pop roots on Shanghai, the project's first full-length album since 2013's Heritage. Like the Saves the Day EP, which was inspired by music from the stalker films of the '70s and '80s, Grellier explores a concept with results that are much more soundtrack-like than "A Real Hero," the song that appeared on the Drive soundtrack and helped define one of the 2010s' major music trends. With Shanghai, Grellier expands on the city's mystique, and he incorporates Chinese elements into the '80s foundations of his music in believable ways with the beautiful chromatic percussion of "Is It Time," "A Strange Guide"'s synth flutes, and the sweetly seductive "Love Peas," which features Shanghai native Hama on the album's lone track with vocals. Grellier also borrows from film composers including Angelo Badalamenti, whose influence is apparent on "Elizabeth Monterey"'s breezy synth washes and "Mister Fang"'s ominous textures. Shanghai's filmic feel underscores Grellier's commitment to storytelling; it's easy to imagine a neo-noir film (which may or may not be directed by Nicolas Winding Refn) based on the album's sounds and song titles. The eerie "Next to the River" and the soft-focus "Lipstick" are among the most memorable themes here, while "Typhoon Alert" and "Briefcase" generate impressive amounts of tension. Listeners expecting more Drive-pop may be disappointed, but Shanghai proves Grellier can take his music in different -- but equally stylish -- directions.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares