Sally Shapiro is a pseudonym for a Swedish electro-pop act produced by Johan Agebjörn -- an odd revelation at first glance. Agebjörn is at the helm, overseeing the technical side of things while an unnamed female vocalist -- who we are to believe is Sally Shapiro -- provides the project with its driving force -- light, haunting and unmistakably Scandinavian vocals. Sally is what makes her new album My Guilty Pleasure such a simple yet unique offering amid the throngs of electronic pop music -- her vocals are always spot on, yet they seem so damn effortless that it can be unfair to think of how talented a singer she truly is.
My introduction to Sally Shapiro was the single "Miracle," a piano-driven song with a menacing little chorus that will bore itself into your head for days on end. It's a painfully simple song, yet Sally's singing pushes it into that upper echelon of electronic -- if not just pop -- music. Having a talent like Shapiro's (believe me it's weird to reference a person by a pseudonym, but Sally Shapiro is an especially weird case since we don't know her real name) is pretty much all you need, yet Agebjörn is as much responsible for what makes My Guilty Pleasure such a solid album.
The overwhelming proof of Agebjörn's masterful electronic music sensibility is the track "Love in July," the album's second single and best track. I could fawn over Shapiro's singing style, but "Love in July" shows how Johan Agebjörn's talents can carry a song. The track is unabashedly perfect electronic pop/dance music, complete with irresistible pianos that sound like they were lifted from a New Order B-side two decades ago. It's an overwhelming feeling when listening to a song with light, translucent vocals and resplendent piano synths that still has an underlying dark, ominous feeling to it. Such is the fate for Sally Shapiro -- a complex narrative that, by the end of My Guilty Pleasure, is one that demands additional examinations.
"Love in July" and "Miracle" act as the bookends to the album -- a perfect way to start and then stop the listening pleasure -- letting the middle tracks explore the complexity of Agebjörn and Shapiro's talents. "Let it Show" features a totally cheesy-yet-appropriate bass synth, "Moonlight Dance" has a chorus that was Top 40 radio friendly in some alternate version of the year 1986 and "Dying in Africa" balances those talents of Agebjörn and Shapiro brilliantly -- synths that perfectly compliment a more subdued singing style.
What comes together, then, is a decadently simple album that grows more and more complex with every listen. My Guilty Pleasure stands out as one of the better electronic albums of the year to date, even if fellow Swedes Röyksopp, Fever Ray and Annie all have something to say about that. Do be very careful of "Love in July," because it will quickly become a favorite song/obsession, especially for those fans of electronic/dance music. The risk, however, is well worth the reward, and as Shapiro describes it, the album will "hopefully make you fall in love with the person sitting next to you on the bus."