Don’t remember Sally Shapiro? A quick re-cap: the Swedish synthpop duo, comprised of Shapiro and producer Johan Agebjörn, emerged in the middle of the ‘noughties’ with plenty of intrigue surrounding them. This is largely because Shapiro herself is an alias; she’s appeared on their artwork but her real name is still hidden behind the pseudonym. She rarely does interviews and live dates have been few and far between, including a DJ tour that was cancelled as soon as it started. This hasn’t stopped the internet theorising whether this secrecy is because of her shyness or whether it’s a clever marketing ploy.
All of this has meant that the wait for their third album has felt even more magnified. Somewhere Else is their first LP since 2009’s My Guilty Pleasure and it’s a playful yet seductive LP that won’t take too long to work its charm, despite its predictability in places.
One of the best songs is the brilliantly titled The City’s Local Italo Disco DJ Has A Crush On Me, complete with delightfully squelchy synth bass, which probably tells you all you need to know about Sally Shapiro’s aesthetic. All of the traits of that particular era are boldly on show. There is also plenty of melodrama to be found (look no further than the gripping Architectured Love or the thrilling If It Doesn’t Rain) and its lyrical themes of love and longing are heavily prominent throughout.
It’s the kind of thing that’s been done to death and its familiarity will undoubtedly annoy some listeners. Yes, it’s all shiny and glistening but so were their last two albums. Most artists would be lambasted for not daring to explore outside of their comfort zones, but the duo have enough good tunes to just about get away with it.
It helps that Shapiro herself, whoever she may be, is a captivating presence. Rather than attempting to match the power and the punch of the music, her trademark vocals – soft and wistful – compliment Agebjörn’s whirring synths and keyboards very well. This is best displayed on one of their more minimalist offerings, I Dream With An Angel Tonight, whilst her gentle falsetto on Starman makes the song all the more euphoric.
Somewhere Else is a solid collection of electropop that, for the most part, leans heavily towards a type of dance music that has already been well-trodden in recent times, not least by Shapiro and Agebjörn themselves; so preoccupied are they by that particular age that you wonder if they’d bother experimenting at all. Then again, they’re also smart enough to know which tricks to use and it’s a testament to their craft that their music holds attention. Despite their heavy reliance on the past, in Somewhere Else there are more hits than misses.