In most music circles, A&R stands for “artists and repertoire”: talent scouts for record labels. In the late ’70s they would stick out like sore thumbs at punk gigs. They were the ones carrying small black briefcases festooned with stickers while sporting unfashionably long hair, like Scandinavian tourists. Geographically at least, theres a connection with this EP. In this case, A&R is the first-initial-combining title of the comeback disc for Norwegian dance popster Annie and her longstanding co-writer and producer Richard X. The five-track offering is sweet, lightweight, tuneful, nostalgic, and easily consumable by a broad demographic an A&R mans dream, indeed.
Annies recorded output has been spasmodic, with two studio albums over the past nine years in addition to a smattering of singles, mixes, and featured artist outings. The new EP continues where her recent single Tube Stops And Lonely Hearts left off, with a dizzy trip back a decade or so. The new material confidently bestrides pop and dance, but trails little new in its glossy wake.
Annie simply glides through Hold On, co-written with the other “R” in her musical life, British songwriter Hannah Robinson. Her high-sugared vocal floats over two-chord stabbing synths for an utterly pleasant, but perhaps forgettable trip. She raises more of a smile in Ralph Macchio, a cute ode to The Karate Kid that piles on the saccharine, while the rave inspired Invisible signals a change of mood as Annie adopts sing-speak for the verses before climbing the scales again in the chorus. A growling, percussive synth bass line punctuated by spiraling notes and stop-start beats propels the song, as Annie turns over the embers of a breakup, adding his side of the argument via what sounds like her pitch-altered self.
This all works because of the contrast with the sweeter stuff that is neatly reprised with the final track, Mixed Emotions. That precarious duality is one that Annie strives for, yet doesn’t always meet. The bright opening track Back Together (co-written with Little Boots) blurs the important distinctions between both artists, yet it’s still an irresistible track that defies you not to sing along to the chorus. Even when things fail to balance out, Annie is still, in a word, poptastic.
Essential Tracks: Back Together, Invisible