A year of renewal, reinvention and reconnection has come to characterise the world of music in 2013. Comebacks were once the antithesis of credibility and artistic development; an economic necessity for some, an indulgence for others. In pop music’s infancy, they were predicated on a sketchy, almost prelapsarian dynamic between bands and their public. At a time when legends were cast from mortal men and women, these figures were meant to shine brightly before falling in a blaze of glory, never to return and disturb the perfect story arc the’d planted in our consciousness.
Then shit got real. The web rapidly aided a dissolution of whatever barrier existed between the myth and reality of popstars as well as revealing the men behind the curtain, pulling the strings. We didn’t resist: we simply adjusted our fandom to a more meta state of mind. This year an overwhelming collective voice seemed to speak as one, accepting the comeback as simply another part of the story: solo careers, time out for family, side projects and band breakups are no longer a full stop but a seasonal cliffhanger, dragged out by the expectation and imagination. We filters rumours through facts, creating a patchwork of Chinese whispers to fill in the gaps.
Anne Lilia Berge Strand released her last record three years ago – but really she didn’t. The second Annie album Don’t Stop was ready as early as 2008 but fell foul to business decisions that pushed it late into the next year. The woman who forged a reputation on self-aware, forward-thinking electro pop – a blueprint that’s been followed by countless others since her 2004 debut Anniemal - then went to ground. Her myth crystallised as time passed and the Norwegian singer’s name became a benchmark we’d throw at other left-of-centre pop, forever yearning to hear what the Annie of 2013 – a year primed for her return – would sound like. The ever on-the-money Popjustice describe her as ”one of those popstars liked by critics and people who don’t like pop music, which generally means nobody buys her albums. This, of course, does not mean she’s not amazing, because as it happens she’s also liked by people who fucking love pop music.”
Annie wasn’t exactly resting; basing herself between Berlin and her hometown of Bergen she wrote with the Xenomania folk, co-penning ‘I Left My Heart In Tokyo’ by Mini Viva. This week’s A&R EP marked a conclusive return to music and distilled everything we expect from our pop into five fabulous tracks, with longtime collaborator Richard X back on production duties and Little Boots as co-writer. We wanted to know more so we called her up for a chat.
Hey Annie! Let’s talk about your EP. The first track is ‘Back Together’, did you write that with Little Boots?
Yeah I did! When Richard X first sent it over to me, I loved it and thought it was definitely something that I wanted to do so I was really pleased.
What was it like writing with Victoria?
It was great. I think she’s an amazing songwriter and I really like some of the stuff she’s done for herself, she’s a really inspiring artist so it was really good.
And then there’s track 3, called ‘Ralph Macchio’ inspired by the actor, why did you decide to choose him?
Well it was either Ralph Macchio [The Karate Kid] or Joey McIntyre because those were the two guys that I really had a crush on as a teenager. I thought it was a bit boring to write about Joe, as I think he’s maybe not that interesting as a character, but Ralph Macchio is a bit of a mystery, he disappeared for so long and everyone thought he was dead but then he came back somehow.
Was it the mystery that you found attractive?
I don’t know…but I thought he was really cute back then! It was hard writing about him, maybe I should have written about somebody else, but Ralph was the one when I was growing up.
Back to the EP: ‘Invisible’ is an acid-house, rave-banger. Is that representative of the more dancey vibe that you’re going for now?
Yeah definitely. I’ve been listening to a lot of house and rave lately and I told Richard that I wanted to do a track like that so he kept sending me these kind of beats and I really loved them. It’s definitely a bit of a darker side of Annie.
It seems like there’s a bit of resurgence in acid house right now. Do you think it’s to do with the economic and political situation or do you think it’s just time to look at something different?
I think it must be a bit of the political state at the moment. For me I found it really inspiring when I first heard it; I was too young to go to some rave parties but I still went there and in some ways it was a little bit scary but at the same time really good, so it inspired me in so many ways. But it could also be that music keeps changing as the whole world changes.
Have you always been into pop music? I read somewhere that you were really into rock when you were younger?
Yeah I’ve been into so many things but it’s almost a bit too much, I have a lot of records! I’ve always been collecting records too so it’s almost a bit of a mess, really.
What was the first record you ever bought?
Annie: I’m not sure what was the very first! One of the very first was the Pet Shop Boys and I still love them, I think their last record was amazing.
There are so many great pop moments on it.
Yes there are! It sounds like the really early stuff they did too, which I love. I also obviously bought Michael Jackson and Madonna as well. As a kid I was a big pop fan, but then I was listening to a lot of Ramones and a bit of Blondie too.
Do you listen to mainstream pop such as One Direction?
Some of it, I love: The Pet Shop Boys have done some really good stuff, I liked the last record. I like a band called Canyons, they’re really good. I listen to some but I buy more singles, I don’t listen to many albums really, and only some pop but it depends, some is good and some is boring.
Have you got a pop act that you hate?
I have some artists that I see and find annoying. I got a bit tired of Flo Rida, I find them a bit boring but I don’t hate it, it’s too boring to be hated in a way.