Rating: 5.5 / Format: CD/LP / Label: Smalltown Supersound CD
Don’t Stop, the second album from hipster world’s favourite pop-star-in-the-making Annie, can at least hold claim as one of 2009’s most delayed albums, if no longer one of its most anticipated. Originally scheduled for release in the second half of last year, various disputes with Island Records led to Annie leaving the label to release Don’t Stop on Norwegian indie Smalltown Supersound this week.
In truth – and in true pop star fashion at that – Annie’s always been a singles artist before an album one: past single ‘Heartbeat’ one of the best pop tracks of this decade, ‘Chewing Gum’ and last year’s ‘Two of Hearts’ not too far behind. So it’s no surprise that Don’t Stop is patchy. Where Annie does triumph though – again, in the fashion of the best pop stars – is in how likeable she is; throughout Don’t Stop you’re behind the Norwegian, and it’s dangerously easy to give her the benefit of the doubt during some of the album’s lesser tracks.
Sometimes though, they become too bad to bear. Annie’s always never seemed sure whether she wants to be an indie princess ala Feist or Kylie Minogue’s heir (she’s ultimately never straddled the line between them as effectively as Robyn), and tracks like ‘Bad Times’ achieve neither intimacy nor anthem, sitting dull and damp in the grey mid-area between the two. ‘I Don’t Like Your Band’ is too chart pop for its own good: it’s a total re-tread of ‘Chewing Gum’ that would doubtless provoke a Heat-reported twitter fued if Annie was ripping off anyone but herself.
Don’t Stop never reaches ‘Heartbeat’ levels of quality, but it sometimes comes close: twilight ballad ‘When the Night’ has to be one of the year’s best guilty pleasures, and closer ‘Heaven and Hell’ (both tracks produced by Xenomania) is just as affecting – far more affecting, in fact, than the ‘big’ pop songs on here, like ‘Hey Annie’ with its marching band chants. Not a great album then, but one that Annie will doubtless be relieved to have off her back – hopefully she’ll look back at it with some distance, and realise that its more ethereal, intimate moments work better than the big band pop.