Anna of the North’s wistful nostalgia
Sara Schlecht | Wednesday, November 13, 2019
On her second album, ”Dream Girl,” Norwegian singer Anna Lotterud — better known as Anna of the North — makes it clear she is not your typical synth-pop star. And a star, she really is not. Much of her (minimal) fame can be attributed either to her appearance on Tyler, the Creator’s “Flower Boy” or to a Chainsmokers remix that is probably better off forgotten.
Throughout “Dream Girl,” Anna reminisces about a love that once was. The tracks work together like artwork in a carefully-curated exhibit, each individually pleasing but, when combined, telling a story one alone simply could not. With her breathy voice and nostalgic lyrics accompanied by wistful synth beats, Anna guides listeners through a series of experiences that, though painful, do not entirely lack beauty. There are both pleasant bits that she remembers fondly and raw ones that she cannot gloss over so smoothly.
In the title track, Anna proclaims, “I’ma eat my cake, make the same mistakes.” Here, she reimagines a relationship gone wrong, knowing the very thoughts will bring both enjoyment and agony. Despite this admission, she maintains the following mindset: “In my dream world / I’m still your dream girl.” She doesn’t stay in this dream world long, quickly adopting an independent attitude in the second track, “Leaning On Myself,” in which she owns her sadness. She asserts, “Lately, I’ve been leaning on myself / Lately I don’t need nobody else.” In no way does she claim that this solitude is healthy or beneficial, but the upbeat synth works well to hide the words’ loneliness.
“Dream Girl” is far from a happy album, but it is not a heartbreak album either. Anna manages to look back on the past affectionately without ever forgetting the way things fell apart. The complexities of human relationships and related emotions are sometimes difficult to fully express in words, but the various producers with whom she collaborated on the album use synth to try to say what words alone cannot; the products of their combined efforts contain joy, agony and everything in-between.
“Dream Girl” is no ‘revisionist history’ of a relationship. Not everything makes sense, and there are holes in her story. In “When R U Coming home,” Anna seems to recognize these gaps, expressing a desire to fill them in. She asks, “Did you dive deeper down to the places I couldn’t take you?” clearly acknowledging an unanswered question.Likewise, Anna wonders, “Are you still playing our song?” the query suggesting an undertone of wistfulness.
“There’s no happy endings / You don’t always have to make things right,” she sings in “What We Do.” This sentiment effectively summarizes “Dream Girl.” Anna did not get what she wanted, but she views this failure pragmatically and with perspective, choosing not to mope about it. “It’s OK,” she assures listeners — and herself. It’s time to move on.
Artist: Anna of the North
Album: “Dream Girl”
Favorite tracks: “Time To Get Over It,” “Leaning On Myself,” “What We Do”
If you like: Ryn Weaver, The Japanese House, Arlie