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Album review: Annie – “Anniemal”

05/01/2011

Yeah, right. You can call it the most glorious ass-pull of a favorite album, but I don’t care: Annie’s “Anniemal” is one the best pop records of the past decade. There, I said it.

Why should I be ashamed anyway? This album has some brilliant music, coupled with equally great production and Annie’s thin, breathy vocals, at times reminiscent of Sarah Cracknell (of Saint Etienne fame) or Kylie Minogue or Britney Spears…

…but seriously, they don’t call Annie “Kylie Minogue hipsters don’t have to feel guilty about liking” for nothing.

Well, OK then. So, the backstory behind this album is that five years ago Annie and her boyfriend Tore Kroknes made music together, releasing “The Greatest Hit” in 1999. Unfortunately, Kroknes died of heart complications two years later, and Annie started work on her album all over again, bringing in collaborators like Richard X, Timo Kaukolampi of Op:l Bastards, and… Röyksopp. This could explain why does this album sound so bittersweet, but still cheerful; and probably why does this album even sound.

Now, there are many good songs on this album, but the stone cold classic is “Heartbeat”, produced by the guys who brought you “Eple” and “Poor Leno”. At one time, I considered making a list of the best songs of 2000’s, and while I thought that I had to listen to more stuff from the period to know better, all the lists I had in my mind had “Heartbeat” on #1. Deservedly so – this song is a pretty good example of making something complex out of easy stuff, with simple progressions throughout the verses and choruses. I’m not sure if you’ll share my enthusiasm, but you’ve got to agree that the last minute or so of the song sounds as if it’s elevating itself straight ahead into the stratosphere.

So, the other standout is “Anniemal”. My main praise goes to the progression: being unfamiliar with music theory, I’ll just say that it does interesting things. Right. And the production’s not too shabby, either. “Chewing Gum” sounds too much like Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” for comfort (still, a great song, but why? why did it rank higher than “Heartbeat” in the top charts?!) but that’s the schtick with the whole album – it purposely sounds like the Eighties, without any irony, kitsch or pretense.

Because of Annie co-writing ten out of twelve songs on “Anniemal”, this album feels more personal than anything you’d hear from Minogue, or Spears. And that’s the main reason why I hold it so close to heart – I’m not a girl, so I couldn’t relate to it all, obviously, but still this album pulls off being relatable and well produced in the same breath. And I just can’t resist liking Annie’s vocals… just like Rachel Goswell or Sarah Cracknell, if you subtracted their vocals from their respective bands’ work, they would sound the same, but they wouldn’t. (“Only Love Can Break Your Heart” excluded.) Either way, this is a record worth checking out – and liking. Possibly even loving.

Highlights: “Heartbeat”, “Anniemal”, “My Best Friend”, “Come Together”, “No Easy Love”

Lowlights: “Intro” I guess

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