Music Reviews
Somewhere Else

Sally Shapiro Somewhere Else

(Paper Bag) Rating - 5/10

How much is there to a honey-suckle voice. Three albums in, the true identity of Swedish singer Sally Shapiro still remains a well-kept secret, yet with each succeeding release it also becomes its least interesting aspect. It makes one question the value we put into the artists we know - even if they affirm their authenticity to us, what ultimately should matter is if we connect with the package at hand on a personal level, right? Besides, the foremost task of a disc jockey is mainly to provide a romping good time. Whether they brand themselves or not becomes something of a moot point; they’re supposed to perform in a corner while the rest of us take pleasure in the moment.

The creative partnership of Shapiro and Johan Agebjörn continues to sparkle with a vitality that’s seldom appreciated in modern electronic music. And in Somewhere Else, the mission is still to rivet in purely kinetic terms; it is essentially meant to be pop after all, and if your demands are not stringent than there’s much to enjoy. Their lively collaboration still hits with a welcome familiarity, even if they make subtle strides to vary the template somewhat. But for the most part, their idea of change means condensing the full-bodied synth-pop eruption of Disco Romance into shorter, more rudimentary tracks.

Even so, the songs in Somewhere Else are executed with seamless precision. The stark, mid-tempo If It Doesn’t Rain pulses with a no-frills, bouncy groove that would perfectly suit a more prominent performer like Kylie Minogue, while All My Love hits all cylinders with a bevy of laser synths and skillfully maneuvered knob-twidling; there’s even an irresistible rap/spoken section in which Shapiro quells a bit of her precious delivery. Which, in a way, makes her seem even more precious. The compressed, glitchy sound bytes of I Dream With an Angel Tonight are cotton candy for the soul, a colorful sugar rush that ultimately fizzes in your tongue once she laments, and you were never intended for me. Which should comfort each and every lovelorn sad sack in need of emotional rescue: Shapiro is still in search of her soul mate.

Which is fine: the formula of love can be found in every successful dance hit, but it’s also reasonably natural to expect more from Shapiro, whose this close to being promoted to the level of auteur. Shapiro still charmingly enunciates with a limited register, don’t give up/my love/for you, and her frothy declarations about changing seasons at times reads like pithy poetry you’d find in a Craigslist personal ad. To her credit, Shapiro’s kittenish whisper is still just as effective, regardless of the stylistic changes they took to detach themselves from their Italo-disco informed body of work. The problem is that some of these changes only bring about even more uncalled-for clichés: the Spanish guitar samples and hydraulic percussion accouterments found in the skronky, winsomely tacky Sundown, or the ravelike, monochromatic synth-pop of Architectured Love.

It’s difficult to qualify Somewhere Else as middling because it proposes a whole new set of exciting challenges for Shapiro, but it also brings about a befuddling, poorly sequenced effort that crosses out songwriting ingenuity with across-the-board dancehall padding. And then there’s the fading appeal of Shapiro herself, whose pristine voice evokes a tender wholesome mood, but doesn’t really hold that much of an advantage. Shapiro continues to willfully limit her showmanship when the world is ready to embrace her. If only she had the confidence to see that.