Thursday, April 19, 2007

A strange beast called Anniemal! Those 2005 albums... (part 3)

This time it is not rock, which has typified the previous parts of this occasional series, that is in the spotlight but pop and it is good to be reminded from time to time that, for all the rubbish that it brings, it has still has a shimmering diversity. It sadly also goes to show that good albums don't necessarily sell well regardless of the reviews they garner. These were three that greeted this:

  • An astonishing debut - The Sunday Times
  • Brilliant spiky electro-pop - NME
  • Life affirming in every sense - Q Magazine
I find it very hard to disagree with the above comments and that is why it appears again here - in fact I'm a serial reviewer of this album!

Imagine a very strange pop cocktail:
Start with a large shot of new millennium Kylie, (Who knows what will she do on her forthcoming album? That, for now at least, is still anyone's guess and maybe Dumfries' Calvin Harris, producer and songwriter, simply isn't telling and who could blame him!), a shot of Rachel Stevens at her best and finally fill up the glass with quirky fizz, that of the kind that has made the Scandinavian countries legendary for producing more good music than their small populations might suggest reasonable. If you can then you might just have some idea of what to expect from 'Anniemal'.

Annie is from Norway and this is her début LP but you would never guess. Although neither conservative nor self-consciously weird in style or content it is very listenable from start to finish and it only gets better with repeated listening. That it is far more than a competent début is quite obvious it but it is also a stunningly confident one. It combines a mixture of electronica - both new and old - with pop of many kinds, touches of R'n'B and rock, and a noticeable dance sensibility in a way that is somehow quite lacking in both self-consciousness and pretension. It is one of those rare albums that gives the impression of actually being created, rather than merely planned, perhaps helped by the fact that she co-wrote and produced the majority of the tracks.

It starts with 'Intro', which has Annie talking over a variety of bleeps and electronic anniemal noises. This is followed by the Richard X produced 'Chewing Gum'; he also produced the quite different sounding 'Me Plus One'. As he produced Rachel Stevens' 'Some Girls' the connecting influence is certainly there.
Another outstanding track is 'Heartbeat' again co-written and produced by Annie. Many a well-established artist would kill for a track like this, while on the other hand the rather happy dance influenced 'Greatest Hit' (this is slightly reminiscent of Faithless tracks featuring Dido, if she were on Prozac) samples 'Everybody' by Madonna, who is undoubtedly a big influence on Annie's music.
The title track 'Anniemal' seems to me to be a subtle parody of Abba's 'Money. Money. Money.' with the opening lines, " She's a locked up girl, in a RICH MAN'S WORLD" and so it goes on, but it is far too clever to ever be crass. It is very hard to find a filler track on this album, or indeed even a predictable one.
There is also the wonderful 'Helpless Fool For Love' that is as near to perfection as a pure pop song gets and, towards the end, the epic disco pop of 'Come Together', which runs to a little more than seven minutes. Buy it - these days almost nobody makes albums like this!