WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2
TRACKLIST: In Heaven; The Streets Where I Belong; Dark Hearts; Miracle Mile; Corridors Of Time; Forever ’92; American Cars; Mermaid Dreams; Stay Tomorrow; The Countdown To The End Of The World; The Bomb; The Untold Story; It’s Finally Over
Anne Lilia Berge Strand released single The Greatest Hit with house producer/soon-to-be boyfriend Tore Kroknes in 1999 and, two years later before they could release an album, he died from a congenital heart defect.
- Read on for reasons including how Dark Hearts contains some of the most thrilling music of the year
Second track on this album and one of our favourite songs of 2020 is The Streets Where I Belong which is steeped in nostalgia as Annie transports the listener back to ‘all of the parties under the midnight sun. That’s when I met the love of my life. He was a DJ and we danced all through the night. Tell me, tell me, why did you go?’
Read more of Annie’s backstory and you’ll discover that she fled her hometown after the death of her boyfriend but returned recently to be close to her mother who is now ill with dementia.
Her collaborator on this album is Stefan Storm from Swedish electronic pop duo The Sound of Arrows who we saw live nine years ago at east London’s Lovebox festival in an early afternoon slot ill-befitting their pop genius.
If we had to guess, we’d say Storm has brought the retro feel to the album coupled with an ear for a gorgeous melody enhanced by sighing vocals.
The title track was a song of the week for us in September and within the context of this album the circular nature of the lyric fits with a life story dominated by escape from home and return, as well as memories, perhaps distorted.
Corridors Of Time fits also this otherworldliness while the repeating of the hook and word ‘Baby’ is pure East 17-meets-Take That and could be the title of a chart-topping 90s boy band track.
We’re here and listening because we’ve been fans of Annie’s since debut 2004 album Anniemal which included collaborations with Richard X and Röyksopp. Thrillingly, Annie’s electro sound which was (and remains) unafraid to revel in multiple pop hooks, would influence Xenomania and their work with acts including Girls Aloud and Sugababes.
The retro musical influences abound with Miracle Mile boasting a typical 60s outro while final track the tongue-in-cheek titled It’s Finally Over is bursting with Burt Bacharach Americana. We’ve read of Annie’s love of Vangelis and the former includes a musical hook that is very 70s prog rock, not a genre we adore but here it is never over done.
If that all sounds a little saccharine, Annie dials up the paranoia with The Countdown To The End Of The World in a devastating one-two with big dance track The Bomb which contains samples from the 1988 apocalyptic thriller Miracle Mile (also the title of a previously featured track).
Annie clearly doesn’t take her own advice because her last album, the sophomore Don’t Stop, was released 11 years ago.
We’d never say Dark Hearts was worth the wait because that’s far too long between albums surpassing even monstagigz favourite Robyn.
But if you’ve missed her and, indeed The Sound Of Arrows, it sits neatly within their best work. It’s a step on from the electro pop with which Annie made her name, lyrically more thoughtful and, in patches, some of the most thrilling music released in 2020.