Dark Hearts is the first alum in over a decade from Norwegian singer Annie. In the near hour length album, Annie covers a wide pallet of emotion while maintaining a solid electro-synth-pop theme. Annie’s latest album is a full-fledged narrative that encapsulates a decade of her musical refinement. Primarily highlighting a single voice, Annie takes the audience through a calm journey lost in nostalgia, with sporadic drops of excitement that keeps the pacing spot on.
Dark Hearts is played out in three parts. Part one, from the opening song to “Corridors of Time” focus on reflection and how we remember things. The titular song, “Dark Hearts” erupts with the most pop amidst the more dream-like and airy songs that surround it. The focus is on Annie’s ability as a singer-storyteller, with the alluring and repetitive backdrop reiterating what she’s saying. Each of the introductory songs is played out with a singular accompanying beat that is maintained throughout the length of each song without much interruption. This is intentional, to cast a light on the repetitive ruts we often find ourselves in, such as when she sings, “We can’t escape who are/ Story repeating, circles are meeting/And now it’s taking us back to the start/ We try to fight it, but can’t live without it”.
Starting with “Forever ‘92” through “Stay Tomorrow”, part two of Dark Hearts treks through nostalgia regarding today’s perceptions of the cinematized eighties. Within this patch of songs, “American Cars” is the favored single which was released before the rest of the album. It encapsulates the Americana cruising dream held by the young and restless that they will find themselves during a journey on the open highway. The nostalgic aesthetic makes the dream feel out of reach as if chasing a high rather than reaching an achievable goal.
All this leads to the apocalyptic finale. The quite apt song title, “The Countdown to the End of the World” traverses through an exciting buildup as the world enthusiastically marches towards its end. The following song, “The Bomb” builds a thrilling backdrop of the frantic final days, wherein the aftermath is trippily recounted in “The Untold Story”. The Dark Hearts finale, cleverly named, “It’s Finally Over”, is reminiscent of the introductory songs, wherein the cycle we find ourselves in repeats itself once again.
While over ten years in the making, Dark Hearts feels relevant to the current times we find ourselves in, with increasingly repetitive and isolated days due to the global pandemic. There are plenty of moments of flatly leveled joy, but the overall sentiment leans towards an afterlife of reflection as hope seems to die and the future looks increasingly grim. Overall, Dark Hearts is a beautiful journey that illustrates a shared sadness for lonely souls driving towards a fraught and empty future.