istening to Disco Romance on a transatlantic flight to Paris, I am struck by its overload of synth glimmers and the pleasantly garish accessorizing of their singer. Quietly these features perform alongside and apart from Sally Shapiro’s vocals, making a fine backdrop to the wide-open time constraints of the crisp winter holidays. In nine tracks, two of them energized remixes, Swedish maestro Johan Agebjörn breathes a gust of vibrancy into a genre left for dead. What proclaimed disco princess Sally Shapiro contributes are diaphanous love notes that, for all their sentimentality, are affable expressions of even the most daunting love hurdles. But for that, thanks must go to the effervescence of all those inorganic players—drum, bass, infinitely useful synth.
The journey should rightly begin with “Anorak Christmas.” This most wave-friendly track is at the heart of the album in placement and concept. In pours a glittering synth melody. A frizzy beat plunks down. Needling synths penetrate the borderless background, and Shapiro whispers away the album’s boy-meets-girl-on-the-dance-floor prologue. Like the rest of the album, the point of view is second person, and her dancing partner is the addressee. “I can’t remember my own name,” she admits, “but I do remember yours.” This track’s whole affair is memorable, or rather, alluring because it’s not exactly memorable. We will remember the beat, the twitter of the melodic line, and the major key, probably its most crucial traits. But that was the ineffable root, the essence—the only way to recall our enjoyment is to listen again. Like any good pop song, be she on the dance floor or not, the joy of “Anorak Christmas” is simple yet arcane.
The literal, sensual whispering on “Sleep in My Arms” is cooler, delicate, and subdued, acting as an interlude to the heavy punches of “Find My Soul,” “Anorak,” “I’ll Be By Your Side,” and “I Know.” Unlike those, “Arms” is a sleeper, but not dismissive of its audience or the rest of the pieces. Its effects belong to the same family, and its lack of focus is refreshing, even as early on as track three. “Find My Soul,” with its punctilious moments of churchy synth work, also lacks focus in the pop sense. Its soaring yawns and roars beget the peaceful, nearly timid direction of the instruments on this album—throughout the album—that are not bass- or drum-related.
It’s “I Know,” decorated with a sweet synth line aped at the chorus, which charts a course for the other numbers’ pretty dalliances. Shapiro climbs from the lowest registers to the heights where she spends most of her time. It’s mystery, instability, and diffidence, the ingredients of early romance, which narrate this tale—again with the porous vocal cords and feather light delivery. The brassy synthesizers snake wildly around their trance inspired melody to delightful and near-epic effect. Vying with “Anorak” as the album’s crux, “I Know” is adamant about what many of the only tracks only infer, though their delicacy speaks the same language as the winners, and flatters nearly as well.