Pop Goddess (Blurt)
Area singer jams to her own tune (Gotriad.com/Greensboro News & Record)
Shalini Chatterjee Profile/Interview (Lost in the Grooves)
N.C.'s Shalini looking to topple pop with classic rock (OnlineAthens.com)
Shalini Chatterjee: Shattering the stereotype of the female musician (12StringBass.net)
Reviews of Magnetic North:
Power of Pop:
This powerpop songstress has over the course of six commercial releases bless the pop underground with her heady rendition of the girl-pop power tradition i.e. The Go-Gos, Blondie and the Bangles. On this new EP, Shalini gives fans six slabs of pure powerpop, without any compromise or concession whatsoever. The opening "One of One" is a midtempo number with a slightly downbeat chorus, "Mine As You Ever Were" is a driving rocker with attendant bleeping keyboard effects, "Echo" is a breathless, sweaty proto-punk effort, "Sky of Diana" is a freakbeat gem, recalling Traffic and Game Theory in equal measure, "See You In My Dreams" is a crunching twee exercise and "Walking Ghost of Death" is femme powerpop of the highest order. Sweet crunch being the operative words throughout. Good to know that prime powerpop continues to thrive even in this day and age. Check out Shalini to understand why powerpop—when executed properly—continues to excite and thrill.
As always, pop of the power persuasion is the first and last order of business for Shalini, and she doesn't disappoint on Magnetic North.
Andrew Hamlin, San Diego Reader:
Were I the man on the deck at the college radio station, I'd first throw on track two, "Mine As You Ever Were." Not so direct as the opener "One of One," this "Mine" nevertheless unleashes powerful ponderings (What really happened? Does any of it matter?) interposed with a "crazy synthesizer," courtesy of Shawn Lynch, a constantly self-stumbling-and-correcting signal, the Starchild trying to communicate with Earth to figure out how it should play with those delicate little landmasses below... on track after track the solid and subtly inventive ensemble (Shalini, ex-hubby Mitch Easter, Jane Francis, Chris Garges, and Lynch) answers questions musically, while the vocals/lyrics ask different ones... This simple dynamic proves richer in execution than most of what we currently call the "pop," and I find myself wishing I were the man on the deck at the college radio station. Feast (however delicately) of this stuff, I'd say as I played.
The first few chords of opening track, "One of One," sound almost lifted from '80s REM. Then, Shalini's vocals kick in, and there's no missing the Go-Go's comparison... [T]he catchiness doesn't really wear out. There's a reason we keep listening to albums like Murmur, and Shalini nailed that sound.
Fred Mills, Shuffle:
It's risky to presume autobiography on the part of songwriters, who routinely employ metaphor and character sketches. Still, listening to Shalini Chatterjee's fourth solo release it's hard to avoid concluding someone got their heart broken, what with such lines as "I sense a change," "you don't want me around" and—most pointedly—"betrayal... desertion... heartache set in motion." The latter indictment comes from "Walking Ghost of Death," a rip-snorting slice of power pop that sounds like a sweaty collision between the Breeders and the Plimsouls, and it's emblematic of how exposed-nerve emotion can elevate a song from just "good" to "great." Elsewhere the Shalini band (abetted by husband Mitch Easter on piano and Velvet's Jane Francis on backing vox) conjure distaff images of classic Dream Syndicate ("One of One") and psychedelic Cheap Trick ("Echo"). Translation: kickass music—or music to kick someone's ass with. Don't be on the receiving end of this gal's wrath.
Mark Suppanz, The Big Takeover:
On this six-songer, this North Carolina outfit continue to sharpen their brand of infectious power-pop last heard on 2007 third LP The Surface and the Shine. They're led by dynamo frontwoman Shalini Chatterjee (formerly of 1990s SF band Vinyl Devotion), whose sunshine-filled vocals again recall Belinda Carlisle and ex-Fall/Adult Net singer Brix Smith. Further, Let's Active founder and husband Mitch Easter plays piano on three songs (he also mixed the record), while new rhythm section Shawn Lynch and Chris Garges give the music a more weighty kick. Indeed, "Mine As You Ever Were" and "See You in My Dreams" are Primitives/Darling Buds bubblegum with the heft of Sloan or Ash. Chatterjee's fervent "devotion" to '60s-'80s pop has paid huge dividends; nobody mines this style with more spirit and joie de vivre.
Magnetic North will point toward a new musical direction for guitarist and bassist Shalini Chatterjee... a radical departure from the grittier, noisier sound of 2007's The Surface and the Shine... Crisp melodies, straightforward arrangements and hooks catchy enough to grab short attention spans... The direction is not that of a typical pop offering, although it's easy to pick up on Chatterjee's musical influences. She nearly becomes Debbie Harry on "One of One," and "Sky of Diana" rocks out psychedelia-style with a synthesizer, glockenspiel and tympani... A refreshing change from the recent norm of soulless, Auto-Tune-heavy pop music.
Chris Parker, The Independent (Raleigh, NC):
Shalini comes together like a five-star Food Network recipe. Sweet-throated frontwoman Shalini Chatterjee's spent almost a quarter century in musical pursuits... Gleaming power pop hooks, rugged arena rock in the vein of Cheap Trick, warm, shimmering atmospheres and a dash of indie rock eccentricity coexist easily.
Reviews of The Surface and the Shine:
David Buckley, Mojo Magazine:
Shalini Chatterjee seems to have the sweet voice, the musical nous and the sharp opinions to make the world stand up and listen. Together with her producer Mitch Easter (Let's Active mastermind and co-producer of the iconic fresher and sophomore REM records Murmur and Reckoning), The Surface and the Shine is power-packed with great moments, and is a more mature follow-up to 2004's Metal Corner. The sound is deliberately slightly underplayed and simple, the arrangements engagingly unpretentious, yet the musical vistas are intriguingly contradictory. At times, Shalini rocks out like Cheap Trick, or punks out like Blondie. "Gloria In Transit," "Surface and the Shine," "Self Sorting You" and the triumphant denouement "Magenta Rules" are songs which are mini-classics of a self-effacing kind.
Rick Schadelbauer, Amplifier:
Poppier than 2003's Metal Corner, The Surface and the Shine finds Shalini—bassist/lead singer Shalini Chatterjee and guitarist/producer Mitch Easter, together with Paul Chastain, Jane Francis, and Eric Marshall—putting aside, if only temporarily, the AC/DC power chords that marked much of that earlier work in favor of good old fashioned power pop and an ever-so-subtle dose of neo-psychedelia. Easter's guitar work shines throughout, particularly the sinewy, Stones-ian guitarplay on "Where are We?" or the made-for-Guitar Hero III bashing on "Take the Train or Fly Away." Elsewhere, his jangly 12-string harkens back to the lost-but-not-forgotten glory days of early-80s college rock. Speaking of which, Easter has apparently lost none of the production magic of his days in Let's Active (or his work on REM's Chronic Town or Murmur, for that matter)—the sound here is welcoming, bright and, well, shiny, as Chatterjee's frothy vocals float effortlessly atop Easter's wall of jangle. And while it's not too hard to play spot the influence—whether the Breeders ("Lipstick + Allusion"), the Bangles ("Magenta Rules") or Blondie ("Gloria in Transit")—the end result is sufficiently unique: utterly irresistible pure pop for the 21st century. Shalini manages to keep it both fun and smart, which, in the grand scheme of things, is no small feat at all.
Fred Mills, Harp Magazine:
From the winsome femme vocals and soaring harmonies to the mélange of brash, crashing chords to the pulse-quickening rhythmic surges and luminous keyboard flourishes, The Surface and the Shine wants to break your heart. Small wonder; it's by Shalini Chatterjee, known in some corners as Mrs. Mitch Easter, whose musical résumé includes two prior solo albums, the Krautrocking Econoghost and 90s San Fran janglepoppers Vinyl Devotion. Joined by her hubby (who produces), Eric Marshall (Let's Active), Paul Chastain (Velvet Crush) and Jane Francis (Velvet), Shalini smashingly serves up a powerpop keeper. Among the highlights are the Who/MC5/Guided By Voices mashup of "Need To Be," the Donnas-like tuff-gal swagger of "White Widow," the tremolo-fueled psychedelia of "Take the Train or Fly Away" and the unbridled anthemic majesty of "Magenta Rules" (which sounds like Led Zep, the Bangles and the Soft Boys all rolled into one). But each of these 11 songs has its own innate charm, its own quirky internal logic, that not only tweaks the pleasure centers of the brain but piques you intellectually as well. Which of course is what makes powerpop great in the first place, right?
Alan Bisbort, Hartford Advocate:
No, Shalini is not another fly-by-night diva. She's Shalini Chatterjee, singer and songwriter who plays a mean 12-string bass and creates timeless power pop. No surprise, then, to learn she's married to Mitch Easter, the maestro of Southern pop who produced and appears on all tracks. This is indeed pure pop for now people, but it also transports one back to the 1980s. Echoes of the Go-Gos are undeniable, but the songs are tough and grown up, more "feminine" than "girly," cheerful without being saccharine. The title track, in a better world, would be a hit single.
Ken Barnes, USA Today's Listen Up!:
I liked the couple of Vinyl Devotion singles I'd heard, and this album, produced by Mitch Easter, will appeal to anyone who likes the idea of female vocals over Who-like (1968-71 vintage) dynamics. Much of the album is extremely enjoyable; if there's a weakness, it's that the vocals are not what I'd call distinctive, but the music and spirit make up for any minor deficiencies.
Ed Bumgardner, Winston-Salem Journal:
Chatterjee keeps impressive company, but high-quality songs, intriguing arrangements and her vastly improved singing show who is boss. These songs adhere to no trend, bypassing tired quibbles about "indie relevance" to rock in ways that combine fresh ideas with old-fashioned muscle. The bass thunders; guitars crunch; songs that seem simple are not; and evocative melodies rattle around the brain for weeks. It's an album that begs to be taken for what it is—a strong power-pop album filled with the kind of songs and performances that would make Pete Townshend and Rick Nielsen blush.
Daniel McMillan, Gotriad.com/Greensboro News & Record:
After the more rock-oriented Metal Corner, we find Shalini returning to a familiar power-pop groove. But we still have plenty of guitar oomph to power the pop. The record sounds full and punchy, not surprising considering Easter's well-documented production prowess. And Easter takes lead guitar on the majority of tracks, bringing a trebly bite to the proceedings. Shalini is upfront about her influences, and her love of The Go-Go's, Cheap Trick and Blondie is readily apparent in the playful female vocals and hook-laden arrangements... Even better is the contrast of the sputtery guitar-fuzz opening of "Magenta Rules" with the distant melodic "ohs" and "ahs" that float through the song later... By the numbers? Sure, but Shalini's latest represents numbers we know and love.
The Big Takeover:
[E]nticing, tuneful power-pop with abundant melodies and hooks galore. It's like a combination of The Go-Go's and Sloan, with Chatterjee's confident voice recalling Belinda Carlisle and ex-Fall singer Brix Smith, with traces of Penetration's Pauline Murray and Lush's Miki Berenyi. And with superb songs like the title track, "White Widow," and "Lipstick + Allusion," you'll likely be whispering Chatterjee's name in hushed, venerated tones...
Kathleen Wehle, Performermag.com:
On The Surface and the Shine, bandleader Shalini Chatterjee masterfully blends the energies of new wave and grrrl rock into her sound... By the final track, it is evident that Chatterjee's voice creates a mood of wonder and perennial innocence that contrasts really well with grinding bass, tinkling lead guitar and thumping percussion... It is not surprising that Benatar, Blondie, The Go-Gos, and REM are among Chatterjee's favorites. Fans of The Breeders, Veruca Salt, Matthew Sweet or the Foo Fighters would appreciate this album's rich indie-pop offerings.
Charlie Doherty, Blogcritics.org:
[O]n 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... "Magenta Rules," with its soaring vocal harmonies and rockin' mid tempo rhythms ends the album on a good note, even better than it began... [F]ans 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.
The Surface & The Shine is a shiny pop/rock album that feels a bit like a cross between God Bless The Go-Go's and Please Do Not Disturb-era Juliana Hatfield... a solid album without any real lulls or duds... it deserves to be heard.
Reviews of Metal Corner:
David Buckley, Mojo Magazine:
Back in the musically Stalinist days of American college rock, producer Mitch Easter used to amuse himself by telling acts such as R.E.M. that they might need a ZZ Top guitar tone in their records. Now, 20 years on, having an unashamed liking for heavy guitar riffs, AC/DC-esque bonehead playing and powerpop in all its flavours no longer carries the same potential to piss off the precious and the pure. And what we have here is an entertainingly ungodly record. Together with bassist/singer/songwriter Shalini Chatterjee and ex-Let's Active's Eric Marshall on drums, guitarist Easter certainly lets the riffs roll on the opener, "Synthesize," the excellent "Anthem," and a cover of Cheap Trick's "Downed." Shalini herself is a coy yet impressively sweet vocalist, a mix of the deadpan and the Spectoresque girlie. An amusing and doggedly untrendy record.
Steve McGowan, Horizon Record Reviews:
It's funny how good a regular, you know, "rock" record can sound. Shalini know how to rock, and not "rock" in some kind of post-ironic-whatever way; instead, they just rock. You know, driving drums and bass, cool-as-hell guitar riffs, verse-chorus-verse-bridge songs, oh... and great singing. It's a simple recipe, but this band cooks up the best batch I've heard in a long time.
The second song on Metal Corner is a wonderful cover of Cheap Trick's "Downed," beautifully executed and really, really rocking. This is followed by "Heartbreaking Machine," an intriguing pastiche of AC/DC riffs with a Cars-type of propulsive coolness, with a dash of the "Secret Agent Man" lick thrown in for good measure. The guitar riffing is pleasantly, as the kids say, off the hook.
A quick scope of the liner notes puts it all into focus. This North Carolina band is of course led by singer /bassist Shalini Chatterjee, but also features the impeccable guitar stylings of Mr. Mitch Easter (yes, kids, THE Mitch Easter) and the tub-slammin' work of his Let's Active buddy Eric Marshall.
Shalini's songs are all hook-y and riff-y as heck. Her little-girl-rocker voice is sweet and perfect, and the lyrics are fun. The references are all kinda 70's; Cheap Trick, Big Star, a little Zeppelin, AC/DC... all the good stuff funneled into a glossy pop confection.
The opening riff in "Anthem" almost crosses into "You Shook Me All Night Long" territory, then Shalini's cute voice comes in to straighten things out. The songs are great, but, honestly, Metal Corner is a guitar tour-de-force. Easter is an amazing, tasteful player, with the right riff, sound, and tone for every occasion. Each song is a clinic on how to do it right; tone and execution are spot-on. Throughout, the band truly sounds like they are having a blast, and of course the CD sound and production are amazing (it's Mitch Easter, remember?).
What's not to like? Metal Corner is a killer-diller rock record. The riffs and hooks (and plenty of 'em) stick in your head big time. This is easily my favorite record I've heard this year.
The Big Takeover:
Formerly of Vinyl Devotion, Shalini Chatterjee recruited former producer and current husband Mitch Easter (Let's Active, REM, Pavement) to play guitar and contribute songs ("I Wanna Be Near You" and "Invisible Hills;" he also co-wrote three others) for her new eponymous trio, which is rounded out by drummer Eric Marshall (Let's Active, Game Theory, Chris Stamey, Ken Stringfellow). Vinyl Devotion was decidedly indie but, as evidenced by the LP title, Chatterjee is more interested in rocking out this time around, pointing to AC/DC as a prime influence. While Metal Corner certainly rocks hard, Easter's presence insures that power pop is at the core of the songs, a point underscored by a strong cover of Cheap Trick's "Downed." Chatterjee's vocals have a little Susanna Hoffs in them and much of the LP sounds like the earlier, less glossy Bangles, a good thing for those who like their power pop picked from the paisley underground. I certainly do.
Fred Mills, Harp Magazine:
Shalini—singer/songwriter Shalini Chatterjee, husband Mitch Easter on guitar, drummer Eric Marshall (as the Fiendish Minstrels the trio also performs sets of Easter material)—took its time following up 2000's We Want Jelly Donuts, but the delay was in service of the songs. There's no filler here, from chugging Joan-Jettish album opener "Synthesize" and the edgy psychedelia of "Heartbreaking Machine" to a pair of Easter numbers, "Bolero"-like guitar showcase "I Wanna Be Near You" and "Invisible Hills," an old Let's Active number that provides am unexpectedly poignant flashback for fans of Easter and Marshall's former band. Did someone say "flashback"? On a cover of Cheap Trick's "Downed", Shalini puts acid tongue to Easter's meaty riffs while glamming it up more convincingly than R. Zander himself. Don't let the album title fool ya: While the vibe might be heavier than Donuts, in the final estimation, Metal Corner's a power-pop platter deluxe.
Tape Op Magazine:
Led by songwriter/instrumentalist/singer Shalini Chatterjee (ex-Vinyl Devotion) this is power pop of the highest order, with big guitars, hooks, and Shalini's strong voice. That there's a Cheap Trick cover within isn't a surprise. Produced by Mitch Easter, who is also the ripping guitar player here (and wrote some songs, etc.), at his Fidelitorium Studio in Kernersville, NC. Mastered by Brent Lambert at the Kitchen Mastering. I put this record on to rock me out in the mornings!
David Menconi, Raleigh News & Observer:
Critic's Pick: Shalini, the righteous power-pop trio led by Shalini Chatterjee and featuring ex-Let's Active mastermind Mitch Easter. Metal Corner shows off a metallic edge and classic-rock sense on songs like the aptly titled "Anthem," with cutting guitars to go with the nifty vocal harmonies. This ain't no wimpy pop stuff.
Grayson Currin, The Independent (Raleigh, NC):
If you've been moping about your flat ever since Liz Phair took her most recent trip down to Sell Out with Your Pop Out-Ville late last year thanks to the help of The Matrix hit machine and a little too-fabulous VH1 video, your worry ends here. Metal Corner—the second album from former Vinyl Devotion siren Shalini Chatterjee, her husband and power-pop auteur Mitch Easter and former Let's Active drummer Eric Marshall—is a twelve-hits, no-misses paradise of open-road, top-down pop songs built on fuzz-tone guitars and Cheap Trick rock 'n' roll negligee well worth your time.
Shalini is a stand-out, a vocalist that sings with a charming naivet? and childishness, although—as a songwriter—she has the rare capability to sound chipper while remembering that it was love and a couple of bad boys who tried to leave gigantic chips on her shoulders in the first place. She ruminates over love lost for most of the album's dozen tracks, pleading "You're the one too far to see/Are you just eluding me?" during the perfect "Light of Fallen Objects." But she doesn't give up: she fights back with plenty of fist-in-the-air attitude and grrl rock sass, singing "You thought you had me all along/You were wrong, I'm a heartbreaking machine." The songs run with the hook-heavy wonder of '70s album rock, but this band sounds as though they're building on their forebears—imagine something of an Anglicized Puffy AmiYumi—rather than just ripping off select predecessors like T. Rex, AC/DC and Deep Purple.
And Easter's production is flawless, giving Shalini's voice and his own guitar enough room to supply the songs with punch and staying power, all the while sneaking in his penchant for subtlety behind simplicity at every verse (see the anti-riffs and the swirling guitar noise that penetrate "Secret Cats"). Move over Liz Phair. You've been exiled by a 12-string bass player with a last name that probably befuddles you.
Parke Puterbaugh, The Independent (Raleigh, NC):
Metal Corner is the realization of frontwoman Shalini Chatterjee's goal "to make a straight-ahead rock record without the trappings of irony"... Shalini's union of metallic crunch and metalflake pop, set off by Chatterjee's dew-fresh, unaffected vocals, suggests the Bangles riding atop AC/DC's uncluttered grooves. Not surprisingly, the Bangles were the first group Shalini saw live—the 13-year-old Chatterjee snuck out her bedroom window to catch them at a Sacramento club way back in '83—and she swears she'll take AC/DC's Back in Black and Highway to Hell with her to the grave...
Kevin M. Mathews, Power of Pop:
Shalini Chatterjee and Mitch Easter come up with the goods once again but this time with the interesting addition of a metallic edge on those grrl-pop tunes. But rest assured, the Distillers this is not! So whilst the opening "Synthesize" ("It's okay to improvise") leads off with a garage riff, it's almost window dressing to Shalini's way with a melody. The sublimely psychedelic rock pastiche "Downed" ups the ante somewhat and reminds all and sundry, Mitch's own roots in all things Beatlesque and Byrdsian! The rest of Metal Corner develops this tenuous premise somewhat—the Pixies-evoking "Heartbreaking Machine" and "Infrared" come across like Kim Deal fronting the Bangles; the classic rock posturing of "Anthem," "Light of Falling Objects" and "I Wanna Be Near You" proves that you can marry lilting pop with power metal chords and concepts... [I]t's great to see Shalini and Mitch stretching out their horizons so successfully. A-
Thomas Crone, Playback (St. Louis):
On Metal Corner, the contenders for "song of the album" vie between three cuts. "Heartbreaking Machine" features the band's trademark, sing-songy choruses and a series of impossibly catchy [Mitch] Easter fills. "Light of Falling Objects" kicks off with a solid, mid-tempo beat, courtesy of [Eric] Marshall, before being joined by guitar tones that would fit neatly into "Dazed and Confused" territory, wonderfully dated and chunky; then Chatterjee knocks off the album's best vocals, with a beautiful, overdubbed chorus... And "Invisible Hills," an Easter cut, accomplishes everything a pop song should in a lean 2:39... Throughout, there's a sense that AC/DC records are prominently featured in Shalini's collective record collection; there's a constant sense of Marshalls being turned up and a battery of guitars sitting at the ready. At the core, though, Shalini's still a pop band, with catchy verses the rule.
Ed Bumgardner, Relish (Winston-Salem Journal):
Following the dramatic progress of singer and songwriter Shalini Chatterjee from her days in Vinyl Devotion to leader and namesake of Shalini has been similar to watching The Who develop from The Who Sell Out to Who's Next. There's no question that the second Shalini album, Metal Corner, gets a boost from drummer extraordinaire Eric Marshall and from the multiple talents of Mitch Easter, Chatterjee's husband and one of the best guitarists in rock—period. But to fully appreciate Metal Corner, it is crucial to understand that this is Chatterjee's vision, and one that should not be pigeonholed by gender. These are ensemble performances driven by a woman of realized vision who also happens to sing—and do so with confidence. Organic songs are melodic but not soft; the album is loose-fitting rock, not pop. The unified joy of performance is key to its appeal—the band's cover of Cheap Trick's "Downed" bests the Trick at its own game—a rare thing. Cool guitar grinding abounds, and the disc rocks with a lack of pretension that is a rare pleasure. For those about to rock... (Three and a half stars out of four)
Rick Schadelbauer, Amplifier:
Shalini's previous release, 2000's We Want Jelly Donuts, was an out-of-the-blue delight. Ex-Vinyl Devotion vocalist Shalini Chatterjee, together with guitarist Mitch Easter and drummer Eric Marshall, created a pure pop concoction that was every bit as sweetly satisfying as its title pastry. Four years up the road, Shalini has returned with a follow-up to WWJD. Metal Corner isn't merely a step forward from its predecessor, it's a bold leap in an entirely different direction. Gone, for the most part, is the jangle that cascaded throughout WWJD; in its place is a harder, more substantial guitar sound that harkens back to the heyday of melodic FM rock, when AC/DC and Cheap Trick were in their prime. Two common threads link the albums, however: Chatterjee's voice, alternately strong and delicate, but always warm and welcoming; and top-shelf songs, written by Chatterjee and Easter, alone and in concert. (A welcome exception on the new album is the brilliant cover of Cheap Trick's "Downed," a beautiful putdown that nearly surpasses the original.) "Synthesize," Metal Corner's opening salvo, proclaims Shalini's new sound amidst a barrage of crunchy power chords. Elsewhere, "Secret Cats" recalls Apples in Stereo's work on the Powerpuff Girls' soundtrack, while "Anthem" invokes a more muscular Let's Active. Throughout, Mitch Easter's melodically powerful fretwork drives Metal Corner—on "Light of Falling Objects," for instance, it's not hard to imagine him head-bobbing across the stage, à la Angus Young. Metal Corner is a crunchy-coated confection with a sweet cream center that demands to be played loud.
Mark Deming, All Music Guide:
Well, it seems that Shalini Chatterjee just wanted to rock on out, and after the updated power-pop textures of 2000's We Want Jelly Donuts, the second full-length from her band Shalini finds her diving head-first into the thick and fuzzy pleasures of 1970s hard rock. Metal Corner hardly goes light on the hooks—with Mitch Easter serving triple duty as producer, engineer, and lead guitarist, you can expect your fair share of melodies—but the prominent placement of a vintage Cheap Trick cover offers a great big clue as to the direction Shalini have taken. Along with Chatterjee's smart-gal vocals and the group's full-bodied tunes, Chatterjee and Easter lay on a thick coat of Marshall-worthy guitar crunch, and thankfully, rather than bogging down the proceedings, it gives the performances a good solid backbone, and Metal Corner comes off as good fun with a solid side-portion of swagger, which a few more bands could use these days. Slap it in the car stereo and turn it up—it's that kind of album, and trust me, that's a good thing. (Four stars out of five)
Timothy G. Beeman II, ESP Weekly (Greensboro, NC):
On Metal Corner, there is but one slow spot. That is the moment you are waiting on the CD player to read the disc and begin playing. From the first note of "Synthesize" to the last chord in "I Wanna Be Near You," the entire album is like a Sunday ride in the country: relaxed and exhilarating both in the same... Mitch Easter, who produced Metal Corner, proves why he is sought out as a premier and premium producer nationally—and worldwide. The production is crisp, pristine and near immaculate.
Matt Schild, Aversion:
Shalini's sophomore effort, a plain and simple power-pop affair that's awash in fuzzy guitar tones, glistening female vocals provided by singer/guitarist Shalini Chatterjee (ex-Vinyl Devotion) and hooks bigger than the Strokes' egos, maintains that delicate decency of a band that's in it simply for the love of its craft... With a sound borrowed from Cheap Trick, The Muffs, The Velvet Crush and Let's Active (whose Mitch Easter plays guitar in the trio), Shalini revs up its engine and cruises through the classic power-pop boroughs.
Jeri Rowe, Go! Triad Weekly:
Wow. Shalini Chatterjee has put together one powerful rock trio—her husband, Mitch Easter, on guitar and their good friend Eric Marshall on drums—and delivered a power-pop gem... Produced by Easter and recorded at his Kernersville studio, The Fidelitorium, Metal Corner exudes the smart, shrewd pop sensibilities that has become Easter's signature since his days in the early 1980s producing and engineering R.E.M. Metal Corner, on Greensboro's Dalloway Records, has Easter's distinctive musical style: a full-bodied sound of squalling guitars, thundering percussion and even a gong. Combine that with the trio's talent and Metal Corner exudes a spontaneous spirit often missing from recordings today. All this is buoyed by Chatterjee's understated, pitch-perfect soprano. She has penned 10 of the 12 tunes on Metal Corner, and in the process, she has dispensed a much-needed antidote to what she calls an "ugly, anti-art headache" she sees around her... But above all, Metal Corner is a fun listen... So spontaneous. So exuberant. So rock 'n' roll. (Four stars)
Rick Farmer, Go! Triad Weekly :
Chatterjee's vocals and lyrics are as dynamic as their music. Chatterjee's voice is delicate but powerful enough to cut through the crunchy power chords and screaming guitar riffs. Her vocals are sometimes reminiscent of Suzanne Vega. At other times she sings with a Juliana Hatfield-like sweetness. On "Anthem" and "Infrared," she sings like an angry "Exile in Guyville"-era Liz Phair. On "Out of Steam" and "Invisible Hills," she blends all three vocal approaches. But make no mistake, her voice is her own—unique and memorable. So is her songwriting and hip turns of phrase... Collectively, as a new band, Shalini seems poised to reclaim Easter's baby boomer Let's Active fans and Chatterjee's Generation X Vinyl Devotion fans. It also seems ready to win over a host of new Generation Y kids getting to hear the band for the first time.
Alan Maready, Encore (Wilmington, NC) :
Have you ever yearned for a return to simple, three-chord guitar pop? Are you tired of being tired of the barrage of twelve-year-old, multi-millionaire pop stars cranking out overproduced album after overproduced album? I know I am... If you are too, I have what you are looking for. One word: Shalini... [Metal Corner] is filled with raunchy power chords and catchy hooks.
Reviews of We Want Jelly Donuts:
J.D. Considine, Revolver:
Shalini combines the naive sweetness of girl-pop with the hooky aggression of classic Tommy Keene. Add in a layer of sonic gingerbread from producer Mitch Easter, and We Want Jelly Donuts is as irresistible as a box of Krispy Kremes.
Bill Konig, CMJ:
Pure-pop outfit Shalini is the brainchild of Shalini Chatterjee, a singer-songwriter who experienced modest success through a string of releases by her previous San Francisco rock band Vinyl Devotion. We Want Jelly Donuts is the breezy debut from the North Carolina group, comprised of former Vinyl contributors (producer Mitch Easter) as well as some fresher faces. Jelly Donuts' 10 tracks (six penned by Chatterjee, four by Easter) are universally cheery, and the effort as a whole is unpredictable. The jangly, Byrds-esque "Get Free" will lead to incessant humming, while the rocking "Desperate for Dawn" finds all instrument knobs twisted to 11. New wave-ish treat "Emotion Bomb" would have made a natural addition to MTV's rotation circa 1985. Overall, an effort both sweet and sticky, like the album's objects of desire.
Fred Mills, Magnet:
We Want Jelly Donuts expands on the '60's girl-group-cum-new-wave sound heard in Chatterjee's prior combo, Vinyl Devotion, while bringing in complex instrumental elements certain to charm old Let's Active acolytes. The 10 tunes here do betray certain modernist nods, such as the brittle guitars and hip-hopesque beats of "Conviction Overturned" and the acidic, Veruca-Salt-like arrangement of "Creepy Emily." But from the reassuring British Invasion throb of "Pandora at Sea" and the falsetto vocals skipping over backward guitars on "This is Telluride" to the harpsichord and neo-baroque vibe of "Telepathic World" and the churning psychedelic miasma that informs "Emotion Bomb" (the latter two penned by Easter, incidentally), "classic pop" remains the operative term. Like the titular baked goods—or, more accurately, a Krispy Kreme, considering Easter's studio is located near Winston-Salem (a.k.a. Donut Town USA)—this album will leave a warm, satisfied glow in your tummy.
Jason Ankeny, allmusic.com:
We Want Jelly Donuts is the record fans of producer Mitch Easter have been waiting years to hear; its blend of shimmering yet ragged guitar riffs and gauzy melodies so vividly recalls the heyday of Southern jangle pop icons like Let's Active, the dB's, and Tommy Keene that it's almost easy to overlook the name-above-the-title contributions of ex-Vinyl Devotion frontwoman Shalini Chatterjee. Which is to miss the point of the record entirely, of course: Easter's contributions as composer and producer aside, WWJD is undoubtedly Shalini's baby from start to finish—her vocals project a warmth and intimacy that lend songs like "Get Free" and "Pandora at Sea" an emotional depth those vintage jangle pop records typically lacked, while the electronic textures that underscore "Emotion Bomb" and "Conviction Overturned" capture an intriguing marriage between past and future.
Kevin Mathews, powerofpop.com:
Although much stock has been put into the factoid that legendary producer Mitch Easter is directly involved in the making of this album, to do so at the expense of giving Shalini Chatterjee her due recognition would be a crime. So let's get that out of the way first, shall we? Easter does produce, play guitar and contribute four songs (the rousing "Telepathic World," the baroque "Get Free," the chunky "Emotion Bomb" and the muscular "Destination Anywhere Else") which no doubt form an integral part of this album's success. But Shalini, whilst still providing the sound, heart and soul of We Want Jelly Donuts, is certainly no slouch in the songwriting department... tracks like the slinky "Creepy Emily," the power-packed "Pandora At Sea," the trance-like "This Is Telluride," the punchy "Conviction Overturned," the forceful "Desperate For Dawn" and the folk-countrified "Around the Eyes" all display an auteur's ear for memorable melodies, earnest performances and distinctive arrangements. A purity of purpose and artistic vision where the complimentary skills of Shalini and Easter combine to deliver a rare synergy that sets We Want Jelly Donuts apart from most chanteuse-led alternative combos in this modern rock era.
Rick Cornell, The Spectator (Raleigh, NC):
After testing the pop waters in Wisconsin (Kissyfish) and San Francisco (Vinyl Devotion), Shalini headed to NC: Winston-Salem, Kernersville to be exact, Mitch Easterville to be precisely exact. She'll be in Raleigh to support the new Parasol release We Want Jelly Donuts. Pop music doesn't get much more engaging than the Easter-penned opener "Telepathic World," a festival of guitar hooks, synth flourishes and vocal melodies.
Joel Sweeney, Philadelphia Weekly:
Warning: Even though they contain a cute girl singer reeling off smart, literate, lovelorn lyrics; a full set of chiming, sweet electric guitars; and a total reverence for the days when Big Star was the influence on the lips of those all over popdom, do not, I repeat, do not confuse Shalini with our very own Trolleyvox. But then again, no one would blame you if you did. On the unfortunately titled We Want Jelly Donuts (Parasol), Shalini—and there really is a Shalini, that's all she goes by, like Madonna or Liberace—wraps her troubles in the sparkle and push of power pop. It's her saving grace that she's got the charm to pull off the rocking-little-flower routine and not come off like Juliana Hatfield—a supposedly gutsy chick who's really just a doormat who happens to play in a band. Instead, Shalini comes a little more out of the Amy Rigby school of indie chicks who've been around long enough to have learned a thing or two. Mitch Easter, who's always been an ace at producing this kind of stuff, also goes a long way in giving punch to Donuts, and the resulting record is a pretty near-timeless piece of power pop, with emphasis on "power."
Claudio Sossi, powerpop.org:
Shalini is Shalini Chatterjee, former frontperson of Vinyl Devotion who takes a rather logical step here and releases a CD under her own moniker—and a solid CD it is... This is probably the finest thing that Shalini has ever done, honing her own songcraft while having Easter add his trademark touches wherever it's needed. We Want Jelly Donuts is a fine addition to any pop fan's collection.
Chuck Waters, The Independent (Raleigh, NC):
It may be moot as to whether Shalini craves jelly donuts. But We Want Jelly Donuts, her debut solo CD, sure sounds sweet... There is a lot to like here: ear candy for the new millennium. These tunes bubble and bounce... Shalini's effortless vocals (think Juliana Hatfield-Liz Phair) are perfectly suited to Easter's pop foundations. Drummer Eric Marshall keeps the whole thing nailed down tight.
So she's dropped a surname along with the rest of her former band. Shalini (formerly Chatterjee, of Vinyl Devotion) doesn't need either, however, to nail down an upbeat pop album, as We Want Jelly Donuts shows all her former fans... Picking up the astral pop vibe left behind when Vinyl Devotion dissolved, Shalini teams up with producer Mitch Easter—who also pens four of this record's tracks—to deliver a set full of hooky and light indie pop anthems... We Want Jelly Donuts burns with a lazy and informal delicacy that makes this record a deceptively poppy listen... Shalini dives into the everyday heartaches of the average joe with a familiarity and honesty that makes this album seethe with the bubble-gum personability of the greatest pop songsters, though she avoids the saccharine shallow end pop band frequently fall into when dealing with the stuff of love. Though her songs touch on the romantic glee of sunshine, Shalini keeps her feet firmly planted on solid ground on this record... With ethereal vocals that dart all about the mix to the slightly off-balance compositions—how many songs can anyone name that use an electric harpsichord, anyway?—We Want Jelly Donuts provides enough honesty to make its sunshine burn with true warmth.
Geoffrey Woolf, cdconsumer.com:
Of the many successes of We Want Jelly Donuts (WWJD, get it?), the greatest is the revival of a sound which has lain dormant for nearly a decade now, Southern power-pop. But unlike other 80s retroids, who have dipped back into that terrifying decade to simply parrot their progenitors in the hopes that a then-diapered music buying public wouldn't notice (and kids, you have no idea how many "Replacement-esques" you're about to hear from music critics for the rest of this year), Shalini has seen fit to grow the genre into the twenty-first century... Shalini has is an incredible gift for delivery that can't be taught and, with the possible exception of Tanya Donelly, cannot be equalled. She can put seven syllables into a word like "rain" and have you dead convinced that you must never have seen the stuff before. Her phrasing is of offhand wisdom such that if she were singing the phone book, you might be convinced that she really knew everyone in it.
John L. Micek, 13:
We Want Jelly Donuts (Parasol, 2000) ably straddles the line between straight-ahead powerpop and modern alt-rock. There's plenty of the crunchy guitar that made Vinyl Devotion so eminently listenable, but there's also some nifty sequencer patterns and drumloops to keep it all nice and current. The fact that she's probably got one of the best bands in the business doesn't hurt either... Propelled by strong lyrics and hooks so sharp you could land a trout with 'em, this sorta-solo debut is well worth your time.
Tom Kielty, Driven To Tears:
Shalini Chatterjee is in good hands. After establishing a propensity for guitar driven pop in the late 90's with San Francisco based Vinyl Devotion she relocated to North Carolina and teamed with legendary producer Mitch Easter to release the ambitious debut album, We Want Jelly Donuts. A connection to confections is appropriate as Shalini's voice moves easily between the sweet Liz Phair like quality of "Get Free" and the saccharine falsetto of Deborah Harry on "This Is Telluride," a rumination on supermodel Christie Brinkley's plane crash in the Colorado town. Easter's presence is considerable, in addition to playing throughout, the former Let's Active founder wrote four of the album's ten songs. The most interesting of his batch, "Emotion Bomb," revolves around a new wave guitar riff that brings to mind the best of the one hit club wonders of the eighties. It's on the harder tracks though that Shalini is most successful. "Creepy Emily" starts with a muscular guitar lead that builds into the loud/soft dynamic so successfully employed by Veruca Salt while "Desperate For Dawn" is a reminder that a good hook, even if it is sugar coated, can still knock a listener on their ass.
Dave Henderson, Mojo:
Shalini Chatterjee's songs... pull Spectoresque girl group shapes and have a gothic storytelling unease which revels in a dysfunctional, offbeat phrasing... Perfectly exaggerated by her deadpan delivery and an underplayed electronic hum that gives it a decidedly claustrophobic retro feel, We Want Jelly Donuts is like a collection of Mute demos that were too poppy to release at the time.
Wendi Shea, Amplifier:
Shalini the band appears to be equal parts songwriter and singer Shalini Chatterjee (formerly leading Vinyl Devotion) and Mitch Easter contributing songwriting, guitar and a strong influence... The partnership is a rewarding one for both, resulting in a disc that deftly juggles pop finesse and rock guitar assault on track after track... As the songwriter inspiration for this project, [Shalini] is the center around which this musical concoction was mixed and the result is an abundant success.