Chances are you already know this if you read music blogs and check out the music they recommend accordingly (as you should), but for those who don’t know, Annie is a Norwegian singer/songwriter and DJ. She first generated chatter in the blogosphere with her underground 1999 single “The Greatest Hit,” but it was her 2004 album Anniemal that really made said blogosphere go crazy with Annie chatter. Personally, I loved the album, which was a perfect mix of sugary sweet synth pop and stunning electropop, and I still listen to it at least once every couple of months, which is actually quite a lot because most of the time I’m listening to new music. But, yes, I wasn’t the only one who loved it. “Chewing Gum,” “Me Plus One” and “Heartbeat” were surely all in the top 10 list of songs most downloaded from music blogs that year. The Hype Machine was crazy with Annie love. Unfortunately, some fans turned on her when her 2009 album Don’t Stop was released. While I didn’t adore it quite as much as Anniemal, I thought it was a solid album with plenty of catchy tunes. And it was certainly superior to most pop music released that year.
According to Wiki, Annie was back in the studio as far back as 2010, working on a new album, and they indicate that an EP called The Night Within Us! was to be released in 2012, but neither of these projects have been released thus far. But, alas, new Annie music has finally arrived in the form of The A&R EP. (I’m not sure why it’s called The A&R EP. My best guess would be because she might be trying to attract A&R people from record labels to get a new deal.
The A&R EP opens with the single “Back Together.” It begins with Annie singing over gentle synth, “Don’t give up when you feel you are far away / you can lose yourself in the sound like it’s yesterday.” A solid dance beat drops as she continues singing — it comes in at a low volume and gets louder and louder until it peaks when it hits the chorus. “Bring us back together, back together,” Annie sings. “When we need it most, it will bring us close.” Additional beats come in during the chorus and would seem to be the work of an ’80’s or early ’90’s drum machine. They particularly remind me of “Better The Devil You Know” by Kylie Minogue. (People often call Annie the indie Kylie Minogue or the cool Kylie Minogue.) To that end, the song has a very retro vibe from that point on. The thing I most like about it is that it’s essentially a theme song about Annie reuniting with her fans, but, yes, it’s quite catchy, too, the chorus sticking inside your head like cheese on pizza. I wouldn’t call it cheesy though. Well, maybe it’s slightly cheesy, but only in the way that most dance music is, which is kind of a cool thing if you ask me.
The following track, “Hold On,” is also something of an anthem and continues with the retro vibe, though in this case the smooth beats call to mind late ’90’s dance music, like Eric Kupper or Todd Terry remixes. Annie’s vocals here are very airy, like they’re floating on a cotton candy cloud. “Hold on, I’m here to take the strain,” she sings during the chorus, which reminds me of early Saint Etienne. It’s gorgeous, really.
Up next is “Ralph Macchio” and it’s also a very retro track, as you could probably guess from the title. “Kiss me once and keep me forever / Ralph Macchio,” Annie sings, apparently expressing her love for a childhood crush. Which makes sense because Annie was born in 1977, making her a child of the ’80’s. She probably grew up watching The Karate Kid once a week like, um, me. “In my dreams we lie here together,” she purrs and you have to wonder if she’s hoping that Ralph Macchio will hear this song and get in touch with her.
Annie finally lays down some massive, modern beats on “Invisible,” though they are interlaced with some retro beats here and there. The other thing that’s immediately different about this track is how Annie delivers the verses, basically speaking them, as though she’s reciting a poem. To that end, they are rather poetic. They especially remind me of the Pet Shop Boys, though not any track in particular. “Life goes on now without you / you live to tell and that’s the rule / winter’s cold and so are you,” Annie sing/speaks with venom on her tongue and you wouldn’t want to be whoever she’s directing that to.
Finally, we have “Mixed Emotions,” which reminds me of Sally Shapiro’s music, though it sounds more like a Sally Shapiro remix than a straightforward Sally Shapiro song. This one has a punchy contemporary beat mixed with some old school beats as well, not to mention some shiny synth way off in the background. “Are you out there somewhere?” Annie asks. And we are!
If you haven’t figured it out already, The A&R EP is more of a dance record than pop, which isn’t hugely surprising when you consider that Annie DJs at dance clubs. But she dazzles with dance beats just as easily as she delivers infectious pop beats, so it’s certainly not any less intoxicating. On the contrary, it’s candied and narcotic and a must have for Annie fans, retro fans and anyone who likes to dance, dance, dance.