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In a sense, Sally Shapiro is both the recording pseudonym of an anonymous Swedish singer and also the name of a duo consisting of that singer and producer/writer Johan Agebjörn, who are together responsible for the music released under the moniker "Sally Shapiro." That music, combining Shapiro's delicate, silvery vocals with Agebjörn's vintage-styled synthesizer dance tracks, is a deliberate and meticulous replication of the sound of 1980s Italo disco, as well as a distillation of the melancholic yet hopeful sentimentality commonly associated with twee indie pop.
The pair first met in 2001, working in an office together, but it wasn't until Christmas 2004 that Agebjörn, a lifelong Italo disco lover, noticed Shapiro's voice while they were singing carols at his piano. He told her she would make an excellent Italo-style singer, and as luck would have it she turned out to be a fan of the genre as well. Shapiro agreed to record vocals for a tune Agebjörn had penned in the style of Valerie Dore and Katy Gray (similarly pseudonymous singers who were backed by obscured writing/production teams), although when they finally got around to it in early 2006, she was so shy that Agebjörn had to leave the room while she sang her part. The resulting track, "I'll Be by Your Side," was almost instantaneously hailed as a modern classic on online disco forums; it was given a vinyl release on the Austrian label Diskokaine that July and was soon championed in such outlets as Pitchfork, Vice, and The Village Voice.
The album Disco Romance followed on Diskokaine in December, containing that song and five more Shapiro/Agebjörn collaborations (one of them, the single "Anorak Christmas," a cover of the Swedish indie pop one-man band Nixon), two remixes, and an ambient Agebjörn instrumental. In October 2007, Canadian-based indie Paper Bag Records released Disco Romance in North America with a revised track listing including three new songs (two by Nixon's Roger Gunnarsson; one of them penned specifically for Shapiro) and the extended version of "I'll Be by Your Side." Shapiro's much-discussed shyness (she still refuses to record vocals while anyone is in the room) precluded her from music videos or making live appearances to promote the album, although she has given numerous interviews.
The duo still managed to stay in the minds of critics and fans, however, by releasing two albums of remixes, Remix Romance, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 -- which included contributions from artists like Dntel, Holy Fuck, the Juan Maclean, Junior Boys, and the Russian Futurists -- in April and June of 2008, respectively. The duo followed up their first album with another that followed a similar format, 2009's My Guilty Pleasure, before taking a break to work on other projects. Shapiro added guest vocals to a song ("Don't Be Afraid") on Anoraak's 2010 album Wherever the Sun Sets while Agebjörn released the excellent Casablanca Nights album in 2011, with many tracks featuring vocals by Shapiro. The duo reconvened in 2011 to record a new album and the result was 2013's Somewhere Else. The album featured the return of Gunnarsson and collaborations with Le Prix and Electric Youth, as well as an alternate version of "Don't Be Afraid."
Sally Shapiro is the pseudonym of a Swedish vocalist and the name of the Italo disco/synthpop duo composed of Shapiro and musician Johan Agebjörn.
Shapiro grew up listening to Swedish pop and disco and the band was influenced by Eurobeat and Italo disco. Agebjörn shed some light on the choice of the fictional stage name in an October 2007 interview with Exclaim!' magazine:
Sally Shapiro's debut album, 2007's Disco Romance, was produced by Agebjörn. The album received strong reviews, and Shapiro was championed by many prominent music blogs including Pitchfork Media. The album was released in North America on 16 October 2007 by Canadian-based indie label Paper Bag Records; it is a ten-track album featuring artwork by Canadian designer Geoff Wilson.
Shapiro is notable for shunning publicity and has never revealed her real name. However, in an interview with Swedish webzine Judy in September 2007, she talked for the first time about considering performing live:
In spring 2008, Sally Shapiro went on a short DJ tour, but on a February 2009 post on Sally Shapiro's Myspace blog, Agebjörn stated that Sally would not perform again:
On 15 April 2008, Sally Shapiro's remix album Remix Romance Vol. 1 was released worldwide by Paper Bag Records. Some of the names on this remix album are Junior Boys, Jon Brooks, Lindstrøm, Holy Fuck and Juan Maclean.
Quickly following Vol. 1, Remix Romance Vol. 2 was released on 17 June 2008. It contains remixes by Dntel, The Russian Futurists, Solvent and Alexander Robotnick. This volume is only available as a download.
Sally Shapiro's single "Miracle" was released on 16 June 2009. It is similar in style to previous Shapiro singles.
Their second studio album, My Guilty Pleasure, was released in August 2009. Like the previous work, it was recorded alone.
Later 2011 the duo revealed that they has been working on new material to be released in the near future. Later 2012 they announced officially the release of their third album in Paper Bag Records, called "Somewhere Else", which was one more time masterminded by Agebjörn's production, featuring Cloetta Paris' Roger Gunnarsson and Le Prix as massive collaborators for this new project. The album #3 had as leading single "What Can I Do", being released in December 2012. "What Can I Do" showed that the duo have been experimenting new instruments such sax and flutes, with an audible influence of indie pop / folk scenario, without missing their Italo disco identity. On 26 February 2013 the album Somewhere Else was released worldwide physically and digitally.Sally Shapiro Sally Shapiro's 'Remix Romance Vol. 2' out today! Paper Bag Digital Launches With Shapiro Remix Comp Dummy piece by David Mcfarlane on Sally Shapiro