We fell in love with Anna of the North when we first heard The Dreamer, a song that doesn’t actually appear on Lovers, the debut from this Norwegian/New Zealand synth pop duo. We were initially a little disappointed but guys, we know not to judge an album by its tracklisting – after all, the memory of Zayn’s random punctuation is still fresh, all very ‘look how mature I am because I’m not in a boyband anymore’, but that was still an album with some bonafide bops.
But we digress, and so to refocus on Lovers. It’s an appropriate title because this album is about love in all of its up-and-down glory. Anna of the North’s singer/songwriter Anna Lotterud exposes it all – the bad, the good, the funny, and the sad, all over lush 80s synth production from Lotterud’s comrade in arms New Zealand’s Brady Daniell-Smith.
Like last year’s brilliant debut record from Shura, Lovers is a record drenched in low-key neon, lo-fi filters and youthful optimism despite the obligatory teen angst. There perhaps isn’t a more perfect opener they could have chosen than Moving On, a song that manages to combine Stranger Things (sorry), melancholia and a gorgeous texture of synths into an anthem to soundtrack getting over someone. Lotterud is singing that ‘it’s gonna be alright’ and in her hands it feels like it might well be, given she brings the warmth and familiarity of hashing it out with a friend.
The quiet hope that runs through Lovers makes it a far more enjoyable listen than the lyrical theme could intend. Anna of the North are there for all the highs and lows – the drunken sexts on Someone (which features an incredible call back to Bette Davis Eyes and the most majestic key change), the hook-up on the title track, facing hard truths on the funky bassline of Feels, the heartbreaking and mesmerising Friends, finishing with a showstopper of a song in All I Want that puts up a hell of a fight for something that feels worth saving, like a milennial Bonnie Raitt. Through it all, what’s apparent is that Lotterud is a truly gifted songwriter who has found the perfect companion in Daniell-Smith’s beautifully arranged production; funnily enough it’s this pairing that emerges as the greatest love story in the record.
With The Dreamer, Anna of The North produced a perfect three-minute slice of synth-pop, but with Lovers they’ve produced a tight ten-track debut album that is both sonically and thematically beautiful. The duo haven’t given us a traditional album about falling in love and getting your heart broken because in this modern world of Bumble, dick pics and ghosting things certainly ain’t what they used to be. Lovers balances the pain with the optimistic: sure you might be heartbroken right now, they proffer, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be heartbroken forever. If that isn’t a positive ideal to hold onto in these very crazy times – that too to the sound of this wonderful album – then we don’t know what is.