Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dummy Blog Album of the Week: 'Disco Romance' by Sally Shapiro

Sixty minutes of sculpted kick drum with a faint squirting sound every nineteen bars and a wild electric zither solo about half-way through – this is my prediction for the next Ricardo Villalobos single, and, yes, I'm looking forward to it, but the minimal hegemony isn't for everyone. So maybe that's why everyone's getting excited about Italo Disco right now - a phenomenon I first woke up to when I saw Thom Yorke's Eraser, of all things, compared to Italo Disco in the Guardian. Italo Disco - or space disco, or beardo disco, or whatever - is the anti-minimal. Lindstrom and Black Devil Disco Club and Metro Area never did much for me, but Sweden's Sally Shapiro is a different matter.

'You were so sad, you were so blue,' she sings at the beginning of Disco Romance, in a deadened voice reminiscent of Victoria Bergsman's guest verse on Young Folks. (By the way, isn't the guest verse a concept that indie should definitely, definitely steal from hip hop?) She's happier by the time I'll Be By Your Side's chorus kicks in, but the important thing is that Italo Disco's endemic naffness Рthose synths barging in with their big fake grins Рis not here. Instead, these are perfect little pop songs, which basically means you could listen to them when you were crying and they wouldn't grate. (Not to get too emo or anything.) And unlike this year's other anti-minimal dance genre, nu-rave, Johan Agebjörn's production values are sumptuous: every little arpeggio or snare drum is made from the finest crimson analogue velvet. Songs like Hold Me So Tight soar so high they almost remind you of trance at its most moistly melodramatic. Although they'd still be great without the Italo or the Disco.

The only problem with Disco Romance, and the reason it only gets a 6, is that it's really more an EP at an LP price. Take away the dozy Sleep In My Arms and the two remixes, and you only have six proper songs. Still, every one's a killer. Sally Shapiro reminds me of Junior Boys or The Knife in that she wouldn't sound out of place on daytime Radio One and yet, for whatever reason, she'll never get there. It's pop music that will never be very popular; and if you're a pop fan who (sob) will never be very popular either, you're going to love it.

Out now on Diskokaine

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