Don’t Stop, the latest full length from Nordic electropopper Annie, delivers a collection of irrepressibly upbeat bangers produced by Xenomania, Bloc Party collaborator Paul Epworth, and Timo Kaukolampi and Richard X, with whom she collaborated on her first album Anniemal. The call-and-response opener “Hey Annie” combines her sweet and direct songwriting with a gritty, 80s analog aesthetic, leading the charge through a dozen sparkly pop songs that mix surface sweetness with a self-aware, and sometimes times melancholy, interior. (PHOTO BY NINA MERIKALLIO)
While a label dispute delayed the release of Don’t Stop for more than a year, Annie relocated from Bergen, Norway to Berlin and has been immersing herself in the global capital of forward-thinking electronic music. I spoke with her during her quick DJ tour of the U.S (the New York stop is Saturday at the Tribeca Grand).
ALEX SHERMAN: Are you familiar with some of the laws in New York City that prohibit where and when you can dance? They call them Cabaret Laws.
ANNIE: Yeah! That I find really exotic! It’s really strange to have a place where it’s not allowed to dance. It’s like, you can dance over there but not over here. I find that more exotic than annoying.
SHERMAN: What do you mean by exotic?
ANNIE: I don’t know any other place in the world where you have rules that you’re not allowed to dance in certain places. I can understand some places you’re not allowed to spit or scream something awful, but not allowed to dance to me is really… interesting.
SHERMAN: A lot of people are not aware of the restrictions, they just dance where other people are dancing.
ANNIE: Yeah, yeah, yeah…
SHERMAN: You aren’t allowed to dance at your local bar. You are supposed to go to a special place at a special time to do it. It’s not organic.
ANNIE: Like, “Now we’re going to dance!” Exactly. That’s a very interesting way of seeing it. I remember one of the first times I was in New York, I went to this club night called Body and Soul where there was someone doing a house set, a DJ who used to do shows at Paradise Garage with Larry Levan. It was a Sunday, very early, at like 11, and people were queuing up. I looked around and saw people everywhere were stretching out and getting ready. Now I can understand that people need to prepare themselves for powerful dancing. But it wasn’t like a natural way. It’s more like “Now is the moment we’re going to dance,” and I find that really weird.
SHERMAN: What do you look for in a song when you’re putting together one of your DJ sets?
ANNIE: I play eclectic sets, with some electro and some more poppy/new wave stuff. If a song has a really good melody, good lyrics, and the production is amazing, that would be perfect, but you can’t always have everything. Sometimes it’s just a synth line that’s great, or drums that are extraordinarily brilliant. It’s hard to know the perfect song. You just feel it, I think.
SHERMAN: I guess that’s sort of an obvious question, but sometimes I’m out dancing and the choices are just baffling.
ANNIE: It’s obvious but not obvious. It’s also very much about the song connections. If you have a really brilliant DJ, you can have two songs you wouldn’t necessarily find brilliant until the DJ plays it in connection with the other songs, and it sounds amazing. I went to see some gigs in Berlin and heard a particular DJ playing, and I know I didn’t really like the song he was playing. But then I heard it in his sequence and I went out and bought the song the next day.
SHERMAN: Do you plan your sets out ahead of time?
ANNIE: Oh, no. I go with what I feel. When I’m making music, I’m working really, really hard. I find that it’s almost like a struggle when I’m in the studio. But I work so much for the songs and it takes me such a long time. I guess I’m a bit of a perfectionist. The DJ thing is more about basic fun. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just something that I do because I enjoy it and I try to enjoy it as much as I can.
Annie’s Don’t Stop is out now on Smalltown Supersound. She will DJ November 21st at the Tribeca Grand Hotel.