Much like The Chromatics’ Night Drive and the other acts on the After Hours compilation, Sally Shapiro’s Disco Romance is a full-on revisiting of 1980s Italian disco. Producer Johan Agebjorn is largely – if not completely – due credit for this sonic homage, plying familiar recycled melodies and beats together in epically strident dance numbers. Many of the songs on here move with enough surefooted urgency that they come across like songs from the “work out” montages in underdog films like Rocky or Flashdance. Agebjorn’s ability to so closely mimic his predecessors is quite a feat since he’s coming at these dated sounds from the digital age, and replacing much of the analogue sound of old with sleeker bass and drum machines. Still when songs like “I’ll Be By Your Side,” “I Know,” and “Anorak Christmas” hit the turntable, anyone who’s focused on such a minor quibble is beyond help.
Shapiro’s vocal contribution is what ultimately lends a Swedish tint to this album. Her voice isn’t strong, but it’s commanding enough in its simplicity and endearing in its quiet whisper. When she sings “When you feel so lonely in your heart/ I’ll be by your side tonight” on the opening track, it’s not a universal love she’s shouting out, but a much more personal one. The same goes for the chorus of “I Know”: “I know you’re my love somehow/ Even though sometimes I believe I will wake up from this dream” in a weary voice as if she’s murmuring to herself while still asleep. The closing track “Sleep in My Arms” seems to follow this up, with Shapiro quietly intoning lyrics in French while Agebjorn ends his dance party unexpectedly in ambient soundscapes, vibraphone flourishes, and pouring rain. Maybe it’s a signal of the next direction Shapiro and Agebjorn tend to move in. In any case, it severs their ties with the rest of the album’s Italian disco roots, but after proving themselves such stilled masters of it, there’s no reason for them to stick around for a repeat performance.
Paper Bag Records: www.paperbagrecords.com