Norwegian music is in rude health at the moment, and nowhere was this more in evidence than at the recent Sunkissed night at Fabric, celebrating one hundred years of independence from Sweden with a mini festival of artists from the contrasting worlds of death metal, jazz, deep house and pop. Covering the latter sphere in a DJ set was Annie, showing her talents don’t just end at singing, songwriting and producing.
If the future of Norwegian pop music is looking bright then a fair amount of the credit must go to the Bergen-based vocalist, whose debut album is a polished gem. Despite the use of three producers, it’s clear who has had the final say, as the record hangs together coherently, its maker’s personality stamped in place.
The three singles are here, and are the standout tracks musically. Chewing Gum struts onto the dancefloor early on, a classic piece of throwaway pop. My Heartbeat provides some wistful euphoria, one of the best pop records you’ll hear this year already – if Dubstar were for you in the mid ’90s, this will be a must hear. And then, towards the close, My Greatest Hit, Annie’s breakthrough track that has spent a lot of time in the DJ booth over the last couple of years, sampling Madonna‘s Everybody and punching out an irresistibly funky beat.
What happens around these singles is musically rewarding but also lyrically telling, for it seems in some way to exorcise the ghost of Annie’s partner Tore ‘Erot’ Kroknes, whose life ended tragically due to a heart defect. It’s to Annie’s credit that she is able to do this without plunging into despair or self-pity, but with a pop sensibility her old co-writer would no doubt have appreciated.
The two songs most affected are No Easy Love and Happy Without You, the former a sombre affair with Annie singing, “I miss you every day” and “I have been working day and night, try to forget your smile so bright”. The latter, meanwhile, seems to have come out the other side: “It took a long time but now I’m back for good” a pertinent opening line.
It’s typical of Annie’s cheery, no nonsense lyrics that can be taken exactly on face value, placed over electronic beats that complement rather than smother her delicate, breathy tones. Always Too Late sets a sighing chorus to pizzicato strings, while Me Plus One is another electronic pop treat, with Richard X on production duties and backing vocals. This is surely a candidate for the next single, with the line “if ever there’s a girl that can rock your world then that girl sure is me”. The title track works well, too, imploring you to “wake up the animal inside” before moving into a singalong chorus.
Where Annie’s music really wins is in a play for the dancefloor as well as the radio airwaves, and it’s to our loss that she hasn’t yet been given a runout on commercial radio. With music of this quality, though, consider yourself strongly urged to go out and buy the album, rather than wait for it to come and find you.