Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Album Review: Annie - The A&R EP

The A&R EP
Rating: Grrrr

Norwegian pop star Annie has teased us for years with only 2 albums and a series of one off singles and collaborations that always keep her in the mind's eye. Indeed, if anyone would benefit the most from the use of the extended play, it would be Annie. She just doesn't really fit into the typical album-oriented playbook, with her singles usually outshining the album material, notably on 2009's somewhat lackluster Don't Stop. Aside from her spring single "Tubestops and Lonely Hearts," Annie has been fairly quiet this year, until now, with the release of her first EP, The A&R, her 5 track collaboration with frequent songwriting partner/producer Richard X (Sugababes, Roisin Murphy, Goldfrapp, M.I.A). With nary a weak track, The A&R is a brilliant collection of dance-pop tracks that all work together, yet each stands alone. The tracks move effortlessly from cheeky pop to dark and sinister without any blips or throwaways.

Starting out with the lovely dance floor anthem "Back Together," Annie hits the ground running with this 90s leaning pop track. Her deliciously coy vocal fits perfectly over the swooning synths and blooping keyboards, the thumping beats bringing it all home.

"Hold On" is a delightful house leaning pop track, with Richard X's production creating a lovely, nostalgia feeling while Annie's sweet and airy vocals are the right fit. In days gone by, you could easily see this lilting track shooting up the charts.

For complete non-guilty pleasure, pop perfection "Ralph Macchio" is a goofy, 8-bit love letter to Annie's 80's crush Ralph Macchio.

Things take a slightly darker turn on the rave-inflected club banger "Invisible," with Annie lamenting a failed relationship, both parties giving their sides of the story. Whether it is Annie singing both parts, with her lover's voice being highly processed, remains to be seen. It does create a creepy, sinister take on things though, and is the most striking track on the record.

Things close out on a slightly brighter note, with the skycraping synths and beats of "Mixed Emotions." Richard X's production is typically immaculate and pristine, providing the perfect backing for Annie.

In fact, Richard X always seems to be perfectly in sync with Annie when it comes to producing for her. His music backing is always interesting yet not showy, never overshadowing Annie, letting her voice be the focal point. It is one of pop music's best duos when it comes down to it. Hopefully, they will give us a lot of more collaborations in the future. For now, The A&R is a brilliant look into their collaborative process, and is one of the best collection of dance tracks this year.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

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