Annie Don’t Stop

[Smalltown Supersound; 2009]

Styles: techno diva, electropop
Others: Sally Shapiro, Crystal Castles, Scritti Politti

Norwegian electro chanteuse Annie has been relatively quiet since the release of Anniemal in 2004, but with Don't Stop she finally returns to the long-player format with a clutch of stadium-sized pop tunes. Her persona throughout the album is a blend of sweetness and sass that is sometimes more childish than it is seductive.

Opener “Hey Annie” is a stirring blitz of arena drums, saccharine vocals, and glockenspiel melodies. It traces a template the rest of the album fills out with slight variations. Bratty follow-up “My Love is Better” is more likely to soundtrack the trailer for Mean Girls 2 than your next dance night. I don’t expect dance lyrics to do more than mark time, but Annie’s delivery can’t salvage words this weak: “My kiss is wetter/ Than your kiss/ My lips are better/ Than your lips/ You know you’ll never/ Have my hips/ I’m so much better/ So eat this.”

“Songs Remind Me of You” hits fifth gear early and tries to keep top speed for four minutes straight. It’s an aggressive burst of electropop that uses filter sweeps and disappearing vocals like quick down-shifts that rev the engine up. This approach is all too common on Don’t Stop and reveals one of the album’s key weaknesses: poor mixing. All the different elements of these tracks try to stand in front of each other and shine brightest, like a crowd of overeager beauty pageant participants. “Marie Cherie,” for example, has the potential to breathe a spooky sexiness into the heart of the album, but the opportunity is largely lost because everything in the track is just too loud. “Take You Home,” on the other hand, sacrifices some of the blinding sparkle for a winsome push and pull between Annie and the synths and drums.

In the end, a more careful hand on some of the mixing dials could bring out a lot of the beauty that seems to be hidden somewhere in this album, like a lovely face saturated in stage makeup. At its low points, Don’t Stop has Annie sounding like a clubbier Avril Lavigne. At its best, it channels the aloof, eccentric charm of acts like The Knife and Sally Shapiro. Indeed, Annie’s given us a few winning singles but also a lot of glitz that can probably be ignored after one listen or two.

1. Hey Annie
2. My Love is Better
3. Bad Times
4. Don’t Stop
5. I Don’t Like Your Band
6. Songs Remind Me of You
7. Marie Cherie
8. Take You Home
9. The Breakfast Song
10. Loco
11. When the Night
12. Heaven and Hell

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