We hadn’t even been seated at our table at The Odeon before Annie responded to a question by holding up her finger and admonishing, “I’m not talking about my personal life!” So, unfortunately, I can’t tell you much about the tall gentlemen in the horse mask with her at last weekend’s DJ set at The Tribeca Grand other than he is intimately familiar with the bag of records she is traveling with for this mini-tour of DJ sets in support of her sophomore album, Don’t Stop. “It’s quite heavy,” he said.
Though she made no stipulation regarding my reporting her age (I won’t), the Norwegian singer-songwriter wasn’t too keen about me reporting that the gig was the same day as her birthday until she realized the interview wouldn’t be in print until after the occasion had passed. “I wouldn’t like all that attention!” she said, improbably for any pop singer.
But then Annie isn’t your average pop singer. Commercially unsuccessful in the U.S., her debut album Anniemal garnered critical adoration: Pitchfork named her track “Heartbeat” song of the year in 2004 before the album had even been released domestically. For Don’t Stop, she reteamed with collaborators from her Anniemal days and added a few new ones to the mix: Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, fellow Norwegians Datarock and the U.K. collective known as Xenomania. She was also more open about the record label issues that led to the lengthy delay of the album, originally slated for 2008.
“Record labels these days don’t know what they want, but they don’t trust you as the artist either,” she said. “They wanted something that sounded like Justice, something more modern and then I’d send some more songs. It was never enough for them. I probably wrote 100 songs for this album. But I got all the rights back, and am putting the record out on my own now.” A few of those unused songs are included on the EP All Night, also released last week.
“I had only written one song [“Songs Remind Me of You”] for the album when I decided I was going to call the album Don’t Stop,” she said between bites of trout. “And then when everything happened with the label it took on a new meaning.”
What’s on the horizon now that the album has been released? “I’m going to keep working with Xenomania, and I’m writing for some other artists,” she said, having moved on to raspberry sorbet. “I can’t say who yet, but I think you’ll be happy about who it is.” Considering our conversation spanned everyone from Holy Fuck to the sisters Knowles, the mind boggles with possibilities.
It was 2:30 in the morning and the crowd at the Tribeca Grand was grooving to the third consecutive song that the birthday girl had a hand in creating. The moment lacked any postmodern irony and didn’t reek of egomaniacal self-promotion, both common—if not required—qualities in a modern pop star. Annie was just a birthday girl sipping white wine and playing records, hanging out with some dude in a mask right out of Equus. Nope, not your average pop singer at all.