Originally published in Time Out Chicago: TOC | Annie
Pop \päp\n + El•ec•tro \ i-lek-troh \ adj + In•die \in-dê\adj
The title of Berlin-based Norwegian pop princess Annie’s new album, Don’t Stop, may have been a motivational mantra to help get her through all the headaches from the release’s many delays. With its smart twist on dance-pop, Annie’s 2003 debut LP, Anniemal (London’s 679 Records), garnered her international acclaim. Once Pitchfork voted her “Heartbeat” the No.1 single of 2004, Annie officially carved out a niche as a Kylie with more street cred.
But aside from a contribution to !K7 Records’ DJ-Kicks series in ’05, we haven’t heard much from the 31-year-old. During the recording of Don’t Stop, her album deal with Island Records went south. She then joined forces with Norway’s ultracool, left-field dance label Smalltown Supersound, reworked a good portion of the album and, with its release last week, finally put smiles on her adoring fans’ faces.
There’s good reason to smile, too. Picking up from the whimsical “have fun, chew gum” of her debut, this album has lost none of Annie’s pop sheen while incorporating more rock elements. That’s partly thanks to her collaborations with Franz Ferdinand guitarist Alex Kapranos, whose presence on “My Love Is Better” and “Bad Times” updates her sound for the current indie-dance climate.
Which isn’t to say Annie’s forgotten her dance roots. The guitars may feature more prominently now, but tracks like “Don’t Stop,” with its midtempo chug, arpeggiated Italo beat and electro hand claps, would fit in one of labelmate Lindstrøm’s DJ sets as well as on the radio. Annie’s continued work with producer Richard X and new collabos with Xenomania and Paul Epworth—who, between them, have worked with Bloc Party, Cher and, fittingly, Kylie Minogue—keep the dance beats rolling on most of the remainder of the album.
Breaking up the dance-floor numbers, tracks such as “Heaven & Hell” and “Marie Cherie” show Annie taking on a retro exotic feel reminiscent of the Bird and the Bee, shuffling and sugary pop throwbacks that are enjoying a renaissance courtesy of the Bee, Greg Kurstin. The record’s only misstep is the dismally sappy slow jam “When the Night,” a generic, ’80s-style love song complete with wimpy acoustic guitars and brushed drums.
The last six years may have set Annie back on the fickle pop-culture radar. But Don’t Stop makes clear that Annie, in fact, won’t.
— Joshua P. Ferguson