Sally Shapiro

Somewhere Else

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After two albums of excellent, sad Italo-disco made by the team of Johan Agebjörn and the vocalist known as Sally Shapiro under the name Sally Shapiro, the duo must have realized it was time to adjust the formula just a bit in order to keep things sounding right. Both 2007's Disco Romance and 2009's My Guilty Pleasure successfully stuck very close to the template of placing cheap- and icy-sounding synths over somewhat corny electro-disco beats with Shapiro's sweet and nearly artless vocals on top singing painfully melancholy lyrics about heartbreak of all kinds. 2013's Somewhere Else doesn't stray far from their established sound -- the duo aren't crazy enough to ditch such a distinctive approach, and frequent collaborator Roger Gunnarsson is on hand to co-write four songs -- but they bring in some new ideas, new beats, and a handful of interesting collaborators to help make the album feel fresh. While tracks like "If It Doesn't Rain Tonight" and "Architectured Love" wouldn't have sounded out of place on the first two albums, the almost giddily funky "My Local Italo Disco DJ Has a Crush on Me" could have been on Madonna's first album; "What Can I Do" features guitars and has the feel of a classic Saint Etienne song; "I Dream with an Angel Tonight" has some nicely glitchy techno drum machine sounds, and "Sundown" has all the hallmarks of a '90s electro ballad, from the huge gated drum sound to the jazzy chord changes and the smarmy sax break. The duo must have been big fans of the Drive soundtrack because they brought in Bronwyn Griffin of Electric Youth to add vocals to "Starman," and Anoraak to co-write and produce "Don't Be Afraid." Both songs capture the late-night, rainy streets Drive aesthetic with Shapiro's voice fitting very well with the desolate mood. These stylistic shifts aren't seismic by any stretch, but they are all handled gracefully and add new dimension to the Sally Shapiro sound. They couldn't have kept on doing the same thing, as good as it was, much longer without the diminishing returns catching up with them. As it is, with the improvements, revamps, and overall more interesting arrangements, Somewhere Else manages to be the equal of Disco Romance, and the only reason it isn't better is that it lacks the surprise factor that made Sally Shapiro's debut so breathtaking.

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