Sally Shapiro Disco Romance

[Paper Bag; 2007]

Rating: 1.5/5

Styles: disco, vocal house
Others: Annie, Lindstrøm, Freezepop, Boytronic

I desperately wanted to like this album, on the back of such credibly high recommendations from Pitchfork, XLR8R, and many others, but I can’t get into it at all. Slated for North American release by Paper Bag, a well-meaning Canadian indie label, I’m afraid this Swedish space disco project is just too banal and repetitive to garner any long-lasting attention from me. Good disco – like the better ABBA singles and early Cerrone – was bursting at the seams with lush, live instrumentation and grand orchestrations, which led to humanistic, coke-fueled jams that continue to take listeners to far-off, fantastical places or to the center of the soul, long after the reported death of their genre.

Disco Romance, on the other hand, is comparatively shallow and utterly incapable of living up to the legacy. It’s all fluffy synth preset automation over a never-ending 4/4 beat, while Shapiro’s vocals plow through standard themes of love on the up and down swing. That makes this album not so much throwback disco as garden-variety vocal house, which is easily one of electronic music’s most vapidly ignorable genres. Granted, Sally is charming enough on a personal level, if not more so than most of the thousands of other women doing roughly the same thing, but even Ace Of Base had more going on a purely musical level.

The ambient cooing of “Sleep In My Arms” is one of only a couple tracks that really stand out as breaking the mold, with its heartbeat bass, tinkling "world" instrument sounds, and rain-soaked outro; “Hold Me So Tight” has a little something going on too, with an Underworld-style ambient synth underscoring a hard-hitting beat. But that’s about all there is to write home about. Everything else rolls together into one big snowball that hits you in the face, then melts away into nothingness. A haze of utter sterility blankets Disco Romance to the point of questioning, “Aren’t there two things wrong with that title?” Where’s the sex, man? Where’s the love? Call me a bitter hack, but I ain’t feelin’ none of it.

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