FEATURE: Spotlight: Anna of the North




PHOTO CREDIT: Jonathan Vivaas Kise 

Anna of the North


THERE are a lot of...

 PHOTO CREDIT: Anna of the North/Getty Images

Pop/Dream-Pop/Electro-Pop artists out there and, to be fair, there is a divide between those who are made for commercial radio and have quite a forgettable sound and those who dig deeper and have original layers. Anna of the North is an artist who could easily cross borders and radio stations because, whilst she has youthful spirit and can aim for the charts, there is an undeniable cool to the Norwegian artist that is hard to resist. Nations like Norway and Sweden have been producing incredible artists for decades and, with modern artists like Robyn and Sigrid taking Pop in new directions, there are a lot of eyes on Anna of the North.

PHOTO CREDIT: Anna of the North/Getty Images

Not only is her moniker pretty cool but Anna Lotterud has some seriously good tunes in her bag. Although I am putting her in the spotlight now, there are many who will be hearing her music for the first time – and she is someone who has yet to win over everyone. The modern scene is so packed and competitive so, inevitably, some artists explode later than others. In 2014, Anna of the North’s debut single, Sway, was released and it became an instant Internet hit. That is not always a guide regarding quality but, in the case of Anna of the North, the hype was much-deserved. The artist quickly gained a solid fanbase and continued to release music. Finally, in 2017, she released her debut album, Lovers.

If you have not heard of Anna of the North, I would suggest you start with her debut album. It is a fantastic and complete work and, in my view, was one of the finer albums of 2017. Here is what The Line of Best Fit had to say when reviewing the album:

Synths and guitar swirl together indistinguishably on previously unheard opener “Moving On”. Laced with Lotterud’s velvety vocals, it’s been a live favourite for some time, and is the perfect introduction to Anna of the North’s dreamy soundscapes. It’s followed up by the spacious, 80s-influenced “Someone”, and title track “Lovers”. “Lovers” was the first of the gaggle of singles from the album shared earlier this year, and it’s easy to see why. It sets the tone with all the slick pop sensitivity of MØ, albeit pared down from a club jam to echoey early morning sounds.

“Money” channels the crisp brightness of “Oslo”, sharp handclaps punctuating a warning to the song’s subject about their current lover: “Don’t want you baby, don’t want your love, she just wants your money, honey.”

There are a few moments that miss their mark – recent single “Someone” has a forced keychange that belies its soaring effortlessness – but for the most part, Lovers is a slick, listenable debut with a strong sense of direction and poise. Nowhere is this more evident than on soft, sweet closer “All I Want”, with Lotterud lilting “All I want is your warmth and devotion.” With this debut, there’s every chance she’ll win it”.

There is a freshness and vitality to Anna of the North’s music. Listen to songs such as Lovers and Always (from Lovers) and, despite some heavy production, you are hooked and buckled by these big and bright songs. Anna of the North is not just about energy and glisten when it comes to her music. She can produce slightly cooler numbers and has a great emotional blend. To be fair, I am referring to Anna of the North as a solo artists but,  alongside New Zealand-born producer Brady Daniell-Smith (who produces the melodies), they are really a duo – although many focus more on the Lotterud’s vocals and lead. I will bring in a few interviews – a couple from 2017/2018 – that shows how Anna of the North have developed…and how its lead voices growing and maturing. In this interview from 2018, Lotterud talks about her move to Melbourne, meeting Daniell-Smith and her early days there:

When I moved to Melbourne, there were so many creative people and everyone was doing something. When people asked me what I do I would say I did some music but I was afraid of saying it. They would offer to listen to my stuff and wanted to help me out. It was a good creative vibe. I’ve always written music but that’s when I really started. That’s when I thought maybe I could do something. I had done it before just for myself, like a diary. I never thought about the style, it was just whatever came to my mind. I don’t know the rules for writing. I met Brady who is classically trained and really talented. I heard a song that he put up on Soundcloud and asked to sing to something he had and that’s how ‘Sway’ (the band’s first single) came about.”

Lovers, their debut album released last September, she believes shows the “entire journey” up to this point. “This isn’t the end. It’s been a lot of trying and failing and writing heaps of songs. We’re evolving ourselves and getting better. I kind of wish we had a bit of a plan before we released ‘Sway’ but it’s been all good and organic. It’s not bullshit, it’s just us being honest and trying to figure out.” When it came to making the album she found comfort in its broader palette and creative possibilities. “The album format is open to having all the slow jams – I’m a slow jam girl. The album isn’t just about the singles but it’s about the depth, a whole picture. It’s about me and Brady on a really personal level and you also have the fun songs. It’s one big piece”.

When speaking with FADER in 2017, she talked about her start in music and how she met her musical other half:

When did you start making music?

When I was 20, I moved to Melbourne to study for my bachelor’s degree in graphic design. It was so hard getting to know people, and to be honest [I spent] a lot of time by myself. I’d brought my guitar to Australia, so when I felt sad and lonely, I would just make music and sing instead. It made me feel better. I had never thought about music as something I really wanted to push, but then I was like, "This is what I want to do."

PHOTO CREDIT: Jonathan Vivaas Kise  

How did you meet your bandmate Brady?

I met Brady at a gig, and we started chatting about music, sharing music. Then he put out this song called “The Dreamer,” which he was singing on, that I thought was amazing. I got his SoundCloud login, and I saw that I had played it like 250 times. Then [our version] just happened. [When I moved back to Norway] we just kept in touch. It was really chill. I like it when things aren’t forced. It’s like that with the Tyler, The Creator thing as well. What makes me really proud and happy is that I know it's organic. I know [Odd Future] wouldn't just choose anyone. I know that they only work with people they like”.

Here is an artist who moved thousands of miles to pursue her dreams and, against the odds, has formed a successful duo who continues to grow. I think Anna of the North have many more years in them and are one of the most interesting forces in Pop today. Many are wary of modern Pop and whether it is more about production, commercial aims and streaming figures – rather than authenticity, meaning and memorability. If you like your Pop sunny and big or prefer something more contemplative, Anna of the North are the duo for you. Having released the brilliant Leaning on Myself, Used to Be and Thank Me Later, Playing Games is the latest offering from the pair – it is hook-driven and rousing but there are darker elements hiding underneath.


 PHOTO CREDIT: Anna of the North/Getty Images

What comes next from Anna of the North? Like a lot of today’s artists, there has been a slew of singles and there is this long build-up to an album. I guess it is all part of the modern promotional cycle but I wonder whether the wait is too long and whether an album in the next few weeks would be a smarter move – I do not think there is a set release date for the next album. When speaking with The Evening Standard earlier in the year, Anna and the North’s lead was asked about the sophomore record:

Lovers was a breakup album. What can we expect from your next record?

"I think when I started making the album I was more mature. I was back with the guy that I dated during the Lovers album. I wrote a lot of mature songs that I think were positive. But then we broke up again, so now we'll see. Half of the album is going to be love and then the other half is going to be just a copy of Lovers (laughs). It's different vibes going on, as a human and an artist I've grown a lot and I've worked a lot. I feel more confident in what I'm doing and I feel more confident in my ideas".

It is a busy scene, as I said, and there are a lot of artists creating this rather cool and varied Pop music. I think what separates Anna of the North from the pack is the strength of the vocals and the clear connection between the duo. Unlike a lot of modern Pop artists, Anna of the North are not limited and have this style that appeals as much to younger audiences who might tune in to BBC Radio 1 and those who are a bit older – and, like me, someone who listens to BBC Radio 6 Music (I think the station should check out her music). There are some gigs coming up and Anna of the North hit London on 6th November when they play Heaven. If you have not checked out Anna of the North then make sure you correct that.

Even if you are not a big Pop fan, you will find something to love. The duo is much less commercial and far more appealing than a lot of today’s crop but, more than that, they are always evolving and maturing. It will be interesting to see what they come up with on their second album because, in a year that has already seen some pretty memorable Pop albums, one wonders what Anna and the North can come up with. I suspect they will keep some of their Lovers contrast and sound but, if Playing Games is anything to go by, they are bringing fresh elements into their camp. There are a lot of eyes on Anna of the North right now and, with new music out in the open, this attention and fanfare is…

DEFINITELY justified.


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