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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Review: Annie - Don't Stop

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Norway's dance club mastermind Annie emerged on the music scene in 1999, with a Madonna-sampling bit of pop brilliance called "Greatest Hit" that created considerable underground buzz, which she capitalized on by spending... the next 5 years... recording her debut album. Despite the ominous overtones that usually accompany such obsessive tinkering, that record, Anniemal, was brilliant from start to finish, chock full of songs spanning various dance styles that felt shockingly new and warmly nostalgic at the same time. It earned her the slavish devotion of fans of perfectly crafted pop dance music, widespread critical acclaim, and several minor hits including the bittersweet "Heartbeat", and her amazing ass-shaking ode to the playgirl lifestyle, "Chewing Gum".

Things happened very quickly after that, at first. Annie's next project was a 2005 entry in the DJ-Kicks series. Her planned second album was due to drop in 2007. She even found time to help bring Datarock to the attention of a world that didn't realize what it was missing. The she came down with a bad case of her-record-label-is-a-dick syndrome and that, combined (one assumes) with habits formed during the making of album 1, put her second album plans on indefinite hiatus. As a result we've had to wait almost exactly 5 years until, fortunately, today, as Don't Stop, her long awaited sophomore record is, fracking finally, out.

First question you're probably asking - How does Don't Stop compare to Anniemal? Short answer: Apples to Oranges.

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We've already mentioned that her first single was "Greatest Hit" - it was an aptly titled tune, as each song on Anniemal felt distinct, unconnected aside from having been created by the same artist1. Practically every song on Anniemal could have been released as a single and if we had been told it was a career-spanning retrospective (and one, I might add, that most musicians would kill to have achieved), rather than her first, I would have believed it. (And, honestly, felt exceptionally stupid for having somehow failed to learn about her earlier).

By contrast, Don't Stop feels complete, even deliberate. I won't claim it's a concept album, but it is a a conceptual one, more than just collection of songs recorded during the same period, a much more interconnected package than she's previously delivered. Anyone expecting another record you can simply pop on, click random and poof, instant dance party, might be disappointed. Which would be a mistake. It's not a collection of instant club hits, but Don't Stop is a surprisingly diverse album that touches on this decade's numerous electro styles without simply deriving from them2. From the beat-heavy opener Hey Annie!, a self referencing tribute to the uniting power of music that ambitiously announces Annie's return, through the closer Heaven and Hell, a 1965-fed-through-a-Roland D-50 that will make those of us who still complain a little that Dubstar broke up squeal with delight, it's the kind of record that rewards listening all the way through, and then again, and again. And again3.

It doesn't quite reach the genre hopping insanity that was a nearly universal aspect of pop music 10 years ago, but Don't Stop is strangely very 90s in the way it effortlessly goes all over the musical map (even if that map is strictly the nation of electrovania). There's the bouncy, Blur conjuring radness of My Love Is Better; the New Orderish-by-way-of-Kylie-Minogue Loco; the completely awesome, spiritually-descended-from-Chewing Gum electropop ditty "I Don't Like Your Band. 80's style ballad When The Night is a particular stand out. And herein lies the brilliance - in a weird way it manages to challenge the listener without alienating them, with reason after reason to keep coming back. You'll want to dance, more than once, and at least half the album, if you're me, will end up on your Christmas mix. But much like the recent Sally Shapiro release, you might start by figuring out which songs work in the middle of a set, but find that the greatest pleasure comes simply sitting back and enjoying it.

Don't Stop is, as it turns out, also a very comforting album. Produced with thick warmth, strangely overlayed by an icy cold that conjures up images of ABBA as produced by Giorgio Moroder, it has a kind of futuristic nostalgia, like a memory of something very cool that hasn't happened yet. Maybe Blade Runner, sans apocalyptic overtones. It's one of the most easily listenable albums I've had the pleasure of experiencing all year, and the only flaw is that despite very high heights, it doesn't fully come together. Particularly, the Abba-esque Songs Remind Me Of You should have been a single-only release. Its presence on what is otherwise a very non-traditional club album is jarring and serves more to showcase Annie's comfort with multiple styles than it does service the album. Similarly, "Take You Home", a grimy, erotic fuck-you to a one night stand, is a cool song but feels equally out of place. Even so, despite these glitches, there is no doubt that after giving it a full, uninterrupted listen, Don't Stop will become essential.

Was it worth the wait? Unabashedly, the answer is Hell Yes. The only problem - Annie's track record suggests that album three is coming in approximately November, 2014. Now, we've grown accustomed in recent years to waiting for everything. Effective Mass Transit; Health Care Reform; Change We Can Believe In But Not Actually Get Because Republicans Are Meanies. You name it and we're being asked to wait for it. If that's the way it has to be, fine, but at the very least, can't the artists we love give us something to listen to while we're dying from treatable illnesses in the poor house?

It's really the least she could do.

Annie is currently in the midst of a very limited DJ tour in support of Don't Stop. She spins tonight at Cinespace.

1) And being super catchy.
2) Fair enough, since she started so many of them in the first place
3) And again