Shalini Chatterjee, a veteran indie singer/songwriter who has played in such notable acts as Kissyfish and Vinyl Devotion is back with The Surface And The Shine, the third album under her namesake in seven years. This album is the result of a band effort however. The band consists of her husband, renowned multi-instrumentalist/producer extraordinaire Mitch Easter (ex-Let’s Active), drummer Eric Marshall (ex-Let’s Active), bassist Paul Chastain (ex-Velvet Crush) and backup vocalist Jane Francis (ex-Velvet).
While Shalini’s first album — 2000’s We Want Jelly Donuts — was primarily power-pop, her second — 2004’s Metal Corner — steered into louder, AC/DC-ish hard rock territory. For Surface, which was released in October on Electric Devil/125 Records, it’s back to steady-as-she-goes-power-pop.
The first few tracks show hints of familiar-sounding classic punk rock. But on the title track, a chord progression not too dissimilar to what Urge Overkill used on “Sister Havana” jump-starts this album highlight. Shalini’s polite singing style and penchant for lightly layered, ’60s-influenced vocal harmonies give these and other songs much of their power-pop flavor. After all, Motown acts like The Supremes have been almost as much an influence on her music as pop music of the ’70s and 80s — such as Cheap Trick and The Go-Go’s.
Another standout is the blues-inflected “Where Are We?.” This is one of the heavier tracks on the album, and one where Mitch Easter’s lead guitar work really shines. The bright, drumless chill-out tune of the album, “Self Sorting U,” features Easter on several instruments, including a 12-string guitar, bells and organ. Not the strongest cut in the track list, but it works as a nice contrast to what comes before and after it.
Speaking of 12-strings, when Shalini isn’t playing guitar and Chastain isn’t on bass, she is strapping on a rather unique instrument, a Waterstone Tom Petersson model 12-string bass guitar. It can be hard to pick up on at first, but you can listen for it on “Need to Be,” the punk-ish “White Widow,” and the Cheap Trick-inspired “Rose in December.”
Further down the CD, “Lipstick + Allusion” sports another ’90s rock influence (possibly The Breeders), with its fuzzy guitars alternating with clean tones. It’s a personal favorite as well.
Lastly, “Magenta Rules,” with its soaring vocal harmonies and rockin’ mid tempo rhythms ends the album on a good note, even better than it began.
Without having heard Shalini’s two previous albums in full, I can’t give an entirely informed opinion as to how Surface stacks up against them. However, any album that has very few weak tracks and which finishes strongly like Surface And the Shine does, should get considerable praise and compare favorably to previous releases. Thus, fans of Shalini’s other work and fans of power-pop in general won’t be disappointed with this album in the least and should definitely check it out.
To stream this entire album, click here.
For more information on Shalini, visit her myspace page.