A mechanically energized reverie
Norwegian synth-pop DJ and record producer, Anne Lilia Berge Strand, released her fourth studio album, Dark Hearts, dropping cool and sinful rhythms just in time for the wintry season ahead. Beginning her musical career as young as around 13 as a choir girl, and later in her first indie rock band at the age of 16, called Suitcase, it wasn’t until around 1997 that Strand found herself DJ’ing in Bergen and met producer Tore Andreas Kroknes (DJ Erot). He would end up collaborating in her earliest works and would aid in the creation of “Greatest Hit” becoming an underground club hit and sparking Strand’s career alongside Kroknes.
In 2000, Kroknes was hospitalized due to degenerative heart disease and died the next year afterward, leaving Strand on a hiatus before their next album was released. After a hiatus, Strand returned with the single, “I Will Get On” and returned to the clubbing scene, thus beginning her solo career.
Since her arrival at the scene, Strand has produced studio albums Anniemal (2004), Don’t Stop (2009) and this year’s Dark Hearts along with numerous EPs and singles throughout the 21st century. Similar to other indie artists such as Cannons, Riki and Magdalena Bay, Annie’s Dark Hearts gives an essence of midnight high life on top of its alluring synth-wave dance melodies that offer something compassionate and aberrant.
Kicking off the LP is “In Heaven,” a track that gives an impression of driving through a midnight downtown with its slow wavy synths and woeful acoustics below Strand’s sweet narcotic and morose embellished vocals. Picking up the rhythm in steady striding acoustics and sedative synths comes “The Streets Where I Belong,” a track that speaks of something reminiscently gloomy and impactful when Strand calls upon ‘Johnny’ to lead people out with a slick (perhaps even a little George Micheal’ly only personified in a guitar rather than sax) guitar solo.
Getting into the crux of this album is the self-titled track “Dark Hearts,” encapsulating the heart and soul of synth-pop with repetitive upbeat strums and whirring synths that will beckon any and all to hit the dance floor. After clubbing out to “Dark Hearts,” mellow out to the romantically slow-moving and dreamy melody of “Miracle Mile” that’ll coax people into a lush vibe aura ready to groove along with “Corridors of Time” that gives a similar impression, but with a dash more passion sprinkled into the mix.
Turning up the beat’s notch by two comes in “Forever ‘92” that utilizes wining synths, a steady reprising of backup bass to compliment the soft guitar strums and mystical, atmospheric synths before turning it over to a darker tone in “American Cars,” Annie’s current number one track on Spotify with dark undertones and mechanical ambiance.
Keeping the dark atmosphere and slowing the rhythm is “Mermaid Dreams,” whose heavy and sluggish tune can allude to the riveting waves of the ocean and leads into an amplified breakdown, perhaps alluding to diving further down beneath the waves. Switching over to something more acoustic, “Stay Tomorrow,” and “The Countdown to the End of the World” offer a more alternative rock approach that grooves with quirky pop melodies to ornament these two.
“The Bomb” is where Dark Hearts returns to its explosive club melody, with an electrically fast-paced rhythm and beat to bop heads under strobe lights or even one’s bedroom lamp, whichever works. Acting as a prelude to the end, “The Untold Story” hits next with its dreamy glamour melody which is sweetened by Strand’s honeyed vocals and made melancholic through the harmonic slow pace that leads into Dark Hearts’ outro track, “It’s Finally Over,” that ends with an uplifting theme and optimistically dreamy rhythm.
With over 20 years under her belt, Annie is a staple to what makes the indie-pop genre different and flavorful. Dark Hearts is an LP worth nabbing for anyone’s extensively overflowing library of synth-wave.