Things have not been straightforward for Norway’s electropop starlet Annie since the release of her debut album, Anniemal, over four years ago. Press copies of follow-up Don’t Stop were already doing the rounds 12 months ago when Annie ‘parted ways’ with Island Records. The album was caught up in major label bureaucracy and though a number of the tracks existed in the murky depths of the filesharing fraternity, it seemed the album as a whole was lost.
Taking the master tapes with her, however, Annie dusted herself down and marched back into the studio to record a handful of new songs with producer Paul Epworth (Florence And The Machine, Bloc Party). This is, in effect, Don’t Stop: The Delayed Edition.
You get the feeling that most artists when faced with the headache of delaying a finished album would have taken aim at their former employees, spitefully berating them amid claims of ‘slavery’ and such like. Luckily, Annie’s too ice cool for that and instead the three new songs are all upbeat slices of the skewed pop she’s made her own in the past few years.
Opener Hey Annie! takes the chanting backing vocals and marching band tattoo from Hollaback Girl and adds some delightful electronic squiggles and a lyric about starting anew. The title track, meanwhile, is a subtle mix of pattered drums, distant beats and that delightfully thin falsetto that seems to float above the music.
Best of all the newer tracks is I Don’t Like Your Band. If there’s one thing Annie has perfected in her short career is the arch kiss-off, as shown on early single, Chewing Gum, which uses a confectionary metaphor to show men as disposable. I Don’t Like Your Band aims for the jugular, however, and attacks a man where it hurts; his music taste. Over stuttering beats and bubbling synths Annie lilts “That stuff you play / It sounds so passé… it’s not you / It’s not you / It’s your tunes”. Throw in some background vocals that sound like a malfunctioning Speak N Spell and you have a deliciously inventive hit in waiting.
Elsewhere, the bulk of the tracks are produced by Xenomania and Anniemal collaborator, Timo Kaukolampi. Of the five tracks Xenomania contribute, My Love Is Better is a clear highlight. Featuring a slinky guitar riff from Alex Kapranos over those trademark synth rushes, it finds Annie turning her devilish eye on her female rivals. As the chorus gets into full swing the put-downs become more catty: “You know you’ll never have my hips / I’m so much better / So eat this”. Bad Times is a rush of guitars and introspection, whilst the closing When The Night and Heaven & Hell are glacial balladry and jaunty pop singalong respectively.
So, is Don’t Stop worth the wait? Do bears do their business in wooded areas? Featuring some of the most inventive producers in pop and steered by a singer who knows her way round a catchy melody or five, Don’t Stop is one of the best pop albums of 2009. Sure, it should have been one of the best pop albums of 2008, but these things happen for a reason, and the extra time was used wisely. Fingers crossed we don’t have to wait four years until the next one.