Saturday, 11 May 2019

Ballerina - The Tribute to Shanghai Compilation Album Reviewed

"Ballerina" is an 18 track tribute album, recorded to celebrate the music of 80s Swedish band Shanghai.

Shanghai released 2 albums and 8 singles, and this tribute album sees some of Sweden's finest synthpop bands on the independent music scene cover their songs.

Machinista, in our view one of THE best Synthpop bands in Sweden open proceedings with a Swedish sung version of the track "Bang Bang", a powerful rendition, showing just how good they are at creating sound with energy. Saft tackle the track "Ballerina" and they too deliver an excellent cover version, synthpop with a slightly harder edge, I must find the original version of this track as I haven't heard of it before but is infectious. Next we have a band that was recently bought to my attention, and that is Electric City Cowboys (Check out their new album "Superstar", it is stunning!), their cover of "Flight 69" is a mellow synthpop track, with great use of sequencers and synth sounds, this is another band that deserve much greater reward for their work.

Octolab are another new name to me and they have covered the track "Fallen Angel", the song has a great sequenced bass-line and is sung, I presume in Swedish, the chorus is quite unexpected and very uplifting and would like to hear them do an English version of the song. Again a powerful slice of synthpop.

Candide's cover of "Toner Av En Melodi", could easily be a winning song on the Eurovision, fantastic build up to a huge chorus, this is superbly produced with synth sounds galore, I can imagine they had a ball when they were in the studio recording this, it might be in Swedish but my, it packs a punch.

Next we have Obsession Of Time, a band we have featured on our shows, they have recorded a cover of "Radio Girl" and what a version it is, everything about it is class, warm harmonized vocals, excellent synth work and a dam good song which they execute with perfection, best track on the album, simply superb.

"Step By Step" by Train To Spain is next, another band we really like at White Lion Radio and they have nailed this track, possibly Helena's strongest vocal to date and Jonas has certainly weaved his magic with the music arrangement, another upbeat synthpop gem.

Evan's cover of "Vild Natt" has filmic qualities, it is quite dramatic in its delivery. Orchestral sounds mixed with deep synth tones, I know this might sound strange, but, it could easily be a piece of music used on the series "Game Of Thrones", that is the best compliment I can give it, a very interesting and likable track as it is different from what comes before it on the album.

Sister Electra are another band we have featured a few times on our shows (check out the track "Down By The Park" by them, synthpop brilliance), on this album they have covered the track "Rosalina", a great uplifting chorus again, which seems the trademark for all the songs on the album. Beautiful synth work and vocal, Sister Electra certainly have a wonderful sound blueprint that works very well. Another big favourite of mine this one.

You instantly know that if James from Knight$ is featured on a track, it is going to be full of energy and entertaining and he certainly delivers, powerful rhythm, strong synth lines and very catchy, the track is without doubt one of the most intense tracks on the album, brilliant!

Electronic Zoo contribute a cover version of "Victory Of Love", the track features Pagque and it is more of a ballad, it is fabulous, love those choir sounds (Korg M1??), I just love the tempo of this track and the vocals are given space to shine, the music is wonderful, really impressive. Shanghai certainly had a thing for powerful choruses, this is as good as it gets. Disco Digitale are a welcome addition to this compilation with their version of "Angelina Angeleyes", great sequenced sections and synth pads and stabs, the sequencers though, I think, are what grab your attention, I should also say, superb vocal delivery also.

Another new band to me are Modiga Agenter, they contribute their Swedish rendition of "Eldfodd", another sequencer dominated track, with, you guessed it, a powerful chorus. One of our favourite bands that have come out of Sweden in the last few years are Eurotix, they have produced some really stunning synthpop tracks that focus on Melody and they are masters at it and the fact they have just released their third studio album "Pop", justifies that statement. Larry & Dennis provide a truly stunning version of "Bang Bang (Heart On Fire)", lots of intricate melodies with a flawless vocal from Dennis, he seems to make singing seem effortless, a truly gifted singer. Larry's synth work is equally impressive, it is easy to see why these two work so well together, runs the Obsession Of Time track close for being the best track on the album.

"Africa" by Leaderboard starts off with quite dark overtones before morphing into a full blown pop anthem, I like the sound on this track, it is quite varied. Next we have a couple of names I haven't come across before, Brita Kristina and Peter Sjoholm, first up is Brita with "Nattens Armar", another song with an excellent chorus, where they also make good use of synth melody, the synth work reminded me a little of early Depeche Mode, "Du Ar Min Prinsessa" by Peter Sjoholm is excellent, I love that driving Bass-Line, well constructed melodies are also a feature and I like the vocal line that follows the synth lead, very effective. It might be in Swedish but I still really enjoyed it.

And so we come to the closing track, "Friendship" by Technomancer Ft Angst Pop, great stormy intro and piano, the sequencer, when it kicks in, is brilliant, then we see the powerful side of the music of Technomancer, my word he has served up a delightful synth backdrop, parts of the track reminded me of Swedish band Kite, another fantastic chorus section, a superb end to a quality album.

Whilst this album was released in May 2017, if you, like me, missed it when it came out then it is certainly an album  that would sit very nicely in your synthpop collection. It is a rousing and uplifting album and without doubt a very impressive tribute to Shanghai.


The album is available on Bandcamp:

You can also hear a selection of the tracks, from this album, on White Lion Radio's "The PBH media Music Showcase"show:

Our thanks to Niklas from PBH Media.

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