Annie is somewhat of an enigma — a seemingly run-of-the-mill Scandinavian, the bubbly blonde dancehall artist that receives enormous amounts of critical acclaim and indie, music-snob worship. On first listen, she pumps out ecstasy-driven, raver jams, but with time, the music becomes denser than any collection of dance songs ever should. Her latest release, Anniemal — which is seeing a resurgence in praise with its American release — is a swarming mass of drum and bass beats, synth drones and airy vocals.
The lead single, “My Heartbeat” — Pitchfork Media’s top single of 2004 — sheds the standard dance beat for a more pop structure and organic instruments. The newly slowed pace is a well-needed and perfectly placed divergence from the perpetually bumping dance hits. The song’s ability to lose the drum machine yet still retain its club credentials is a trait rarely seen. The sincerity of Annie’s voice also happens to kick harder and sweeter than young love: “Time after time / Everybody came around / And I was dancing with you.”
“Come Together” is another one of the jewels on Anniemal. Clocking in at just under eight minutes, it manages to retain its continuity without dulling down or becoming a static beat. The nearly two-minute intro features Annie crooning out taffy-filled lines over intertwining, gorgeous keyboard hums and vocal outbursts. She brings the house down screaming, “Come together!”
The most emotional track on the album is its closer, “My Best Friend.” Annie shrugs off irony and tongue-in-cheek wit for giddy hope, “I thought I saw you last night smiling at me / Thought I heard your voice calling for me.”
The biggest problem with Anniemal is inherent and unavoidable — dancehall is only appropriate for certain occasions and at certain times. It takes a specific mindset and setting to truly savor the driving, electronic club jams throughout the album. Even though Annie is able to create a record with dance hits and pop epics that flow together perfectly, her music is still unable to obtain a universal appeal.
Anniemal is a pop gem that shows Annie’s talent and her amazing potential. The density of her instrumentation, given time and progression, will draw comparisons to artists like Bjork. Her vocals blend gorgeously with the glitchy, dance beats and blaze through the music with a overwhelming presence. Anniemal’s pop sensibilities are perfect. She’s got an sixth sense for club beats stronger than anybody since Basement Jaxx.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars