Shalini | Magnetic North
Most Likely To: rock like Reagan was still in office.
Many artists are married to their particular style of music, but few so literally as Shalini Chatterjee. The woman loves herself that college rock sound of the mid-1980s when Athens, Georgia, was the center of the musical universe and the most used word in the rock critic lexicon was “jangly.” Not only has she spent the bulk of the last two decades playing music hell-bent on recreating that sound, but her first husband was Scott Miller from Game Theory, one of the great bands of the era. After that relationship ended, she managed to land the ultimate avatar of the sound she loves – her current hubby, Mitch Easter. It’s as if Schroeder got to elope to Vermont to marry Beethoven.
Chatterjee’s latest EP, Magnetic North, is a bit of a departure from her last full-length, 2007’s The Surface and the Shine. That album was so steeped in the sound of Easter’s work with Let’s Active that it might as well have been titled Even Bigger Plans for Everybody Else. Magnetic North is more of a throwback to her Metal Corner album – it’s still definitely cut from ’80s vintage cloth, but the guitars crunch and snarl a bit more than they chime and jangle.
There’s also a touch of Guided By Voices in the mix this time around, too. It’s not in the sound so much as it is in the fact that the six relatively brief songs on Magnetic North tend to end right around the time they really seem to be picking up steam. Chatterjee is clearly in no mood to mess around and bashes out her songs with a minimum of fuss and bother. This means that a couple of songs, like the opener “One on One,” feel like they end a bit abruptly – it’s a good song that could’ve doubled its 2:33 running time without wearing out its welcome.
Perversely, though, it’s the EP’s shortest track, “See You in My Dreams,” that covers the most territory, progressing from a catchy power-pop track through an oddball instrumental mid-section before ending on a fading echo. The other songs on Magnetic North all hew to pretty much the same sound, but fortunately it’s a good one – full-throttle ’80s style pop music that recalls some of the more raucous b-sides Chatterjee’s hubby produced for his most famous clients, R.E.M.
You don’t have to love the old college rock sound enough to marry it in order to enjoy Chatterjee’s music. Liking it well enough to be friends is plenty good enough. Chatterjee is completely devoted to the sound of an earlier era, but she does that sound well enough and brings enough of her own personality to the party to make it far more than a slavish imitation. She may have married her personal idol and the personification of the genre she works in, but ultimately her own talent ensures that it’s a marriage of equals.
Listen to “Echo” from Shalini: