So, here we are. A year and some number of months after it was supposed to be in our hands, Annie has unleashed her second album. Entitled 'Don't Stop' - as if you didn't know that already - it is just as much of a mixed bag as 'Anniemal' was however many years ago. [I honestly prefer not to think about it, as it shouldn't be as long ago as it was.]
Mixed bag implies bad - which, of course, this is not: there's really not a dud to be found amongst the 17 tracks that make up the album proper and the 'All Night EP', its new companion. [I've even come around to "Marie Charie", which I previously found to be a snorefest.] That said, there is a huge difference in the quality of goodness of the tracks, if you will.
First, the biggest crime: excellent lead single-when-it-was-to-be-released-on-Island "I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me" - why is it not "H8s", by the way? - has been exiled to bonus-disc land, along with the stopgap also produced by Richard X single "Anthonio". [Nothing produced by Richard X should ever be anything than an projects main focus, fact. See also: Pet Shop Boys' "Fugitive".]
Second: best-closing-track-to-an-album-in-ages and in-need-of-a-proper-single-release stormer "Songs Remind Me Of You" - also produced by Richard X, see a trend? - has been moved to the middle of the disc. Side one, track six to be exact. Two problems within this problem. One: the second half of the album is now a total anti-climax, despite it containing the hate-it-or-really-really-love-it "The Breakfast Song". [I'm very much in the latter camp. In fact, I'd say it's my favorite Annie track...after "Songs", of course. Oh, and "Chewing Gum". Top three, then.] Two: the album closer is now the ho-hum "Heaven And Hell" - which was fine as a mid-album, erm, album track but can't carry the responsibility of closing what should be the pop album of the year. Fail. :(
In the tracklisting re-jigging, we picked up three new songs. "Hey Annie" leads us off with a great marching band beat chant - even if it doesn't quite do the job as opener as well was "My Love Is Better", it is a solid tune. "Don't Stop" is a great, if a bit Annie-by-numbers uptempo number. Only "I Don't Like Your Band" - which is a good time in its own right - doesn't really fit in on the album, sounding like it would be better suited to - here's the twist - a bonus disc. [Bonus disc tracks are the new b-sides, yes? Actually, it could've been used as the b-side to "Songs Remind Me Of You" as that release contained NOTHING. *sigh*]
Here's my proposition. [And everyone who cares about the album has their own ideal tracklist, I'm sure.] Perfect pop albums are 10 tracks, no question. All killer, no filler, etc. How about:
My Love Is Better
I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me
Sweet [another casualty of the new tracklist - no room for this one? Really?]
Take You Home
The Breakfast Song
I Can't Let Go
Songs Remind Me Of You
Here's the thing. It's fantastic - a minor miracle, really - that this album got a proper release. And for what it is, it rather quite good. My only issue with it is that it could be SO much better with a little more attention. [Considering the amount of time they had to get it ready for release, that's a bit silly.] Fortunately, we live in the era of iTunes playlists so it's super easy to make your own 'Don't Stop' v.3.