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Pop music's prolonged existence is due in no small part to constant homogenization. Mining underground movements for the sound of now has been its protocol since day one, leaving little for elitists to drool over. Somehow, Norwegian artist Anne Lilia Berge-Strand -- Annie to you and me -- found a loophole with her debut Anniemal, crafting a surprisingly lovely slab of techno pop. Using the prowess of three producers (though she does pen her own songs), including Richard X on the brilliant electro-funk ditty "Chewing Gum," Annie easily outdoes the similarly patterned Music from Madonna. "Heartbeat" (produced by Royksopp's Torjborn Bruntland) reverberates with underlying bass, mechanical disco kits, euphoric organs, and Annie's breathy voice, which instantly invokes St. Etienne's Sarah Cracknell but rocks like an edgier Kylie Minogue. In fact, comparisons to both chanteuses are highly likely. Yet despite the playful naiveté of her lyrics, Annie's music proves a more solid testament to ass-shaking than either of those acts. Even with a few über-saccharine moments, Anniemal rarely veers from its catchy, beat-driven potency. As with the startlingly good Justin Timberlake joint, Annie's debut proves pop's relevance isn't in its assimilation of other styles but in establishing new identities all its own. --Kiran Aditham

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