To “Romance,” times two

Pub date May 14, 2008
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

In 2006, Sally Shapiro’s album Disco Romance (Diskokaine) added a cooler shade of pale to the Nordic pop of Annie and a femme counterpoint to the boy’s own space disco zone charted by Lindstrøm and others. Shapiro — not her real name — used an understated, happy-sad vocal approach to navigate the vast, austere Europop soundscapes created by songwriter Johan Agebjörn. Tracks such as "Find My Soul" and "Hold Me So Tight" shimmered with an eerie grace. Agebjörn cited specific warm strains of Italo disco as his inspiration, but a Shapiro song sounds just as home in the Swedish snow.

Disco Romance deservedly received a deluxe North American release on the Paper Bag label last fall, with three additional songs. This year it’s getting the revision treatment through a pair of Remix Romance collections on the same label. The second one, which includes a mix by Europop touchstone Alexander Robotnick, is due next month. The first volume, out now, isn’t as solid as the original recording, but has its unique charms. Annie’s roommate Skatebard strips down one track, and the Cansecos’ version of "Hold Me So Tight" is the best Saint Etienne track that Saint Etienne never recorded. The Junior Boys, whose glacial crooner’s laments might be the masculine counterpart to the Shapiro sound, entreat the vocalist to speak instead of sing on "Jackie Junior." But the spoils go to Holy Fuck, whose take on "Find My Soul" magnifies the source material’s already potent sense of lost-in-space loneliness. Who is Sally Shapiro, and where is Sally Shapiro? I don’t know, but I like how she sounds on my stereo. (Huston),