tue 20/10/2020

Album: Annie - Dark Hearts | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Annie - Dark Hearts

Album: Annie - Dark Hearts

Cult Norwegian pop star makes a long overdue and welcome synth-pop return

Annie Strand drives back from the darklands

The term electro-pop has kind of lost its meaning, The Top 20 has, for many years, been full of music created on computers, from Charli XCX to BTS to Clean Bandit. Yet still, as a genre header, it's often used to refer to music that riffs on the sound of the 1980s synthesizer pioneers.

The term electro-pop has kind of lost its meaning, The Top 20 has, for many years, been full of music created on computers, from Charli XCX to BTS to Clean Bandit. Yet still, as a genre header, it's often used to refer to music that riffs on the sound of the 1980s synthesizer pioneers. The music of Norwegian singer Annie has tended in this direction but her latest album, only her third in two decades, is even more explicitly in this vein. It is a bright, engaging affair, given emotional heft by her trademark melancholia.

Annie appeared amidst the millennial focus on the Norwegian city of Bergen, which shone a spotlight on many acts, notably Röyksopp. Never willing to be moulded into a tits’n’teeth turn, she has occupied the hinterland between primary-coloured pop and underground DJ culture, becoming a well-liked cult figure. Dark Hearts was made with producer Stefan Storm of Stockholm synth-pop duo The Sound of Arrows. It’s a good fit. Annie and Storm muster a contagious Eighties-flavoured opulence; think “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd meeting the soundtrack to the film Drive.

Annie’s songwriting is often reflective, nostalgic, recalling in places the mood of Pet Shop Boys’ classic Behaviour album, notably on “Miracle Mile”, “The Streets Where I Belong” and “Forever ‘92”.  However, there’s also a subtle seasoning of wide-open-spaces Americana, from the Badlands vibe in the title track’s lyrics to the popcorn Fifties-ish balladry of closer “It’s Finally Over” (“The Streets Where I Belong” even closes with a purposely preposterous epic guitar solo, preceded by the demand to “Take it away, Johnny!”).

Annie’s voice is a delicate, airy and high-pitched, and fits well with a couple of likeable Julee Cruise/Angelo Badalamenti-style numbers, “Corridors of Time” and “The Untold Story”. There are other directions on Dark Hearts too, from a Moby-ish breakbeat roller to hints of The Cars' over-polished new wave M.O.R.. Annie has returned, after 11 years away, with a shiny but deceptive pick’n’mix bag, in that the more you listen, the more it delivers.

Below: Watch the video for "The Streets Where I Belong" by Annie

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