Album Review: Be he me
Psych pop rockers Annuals are really, really afraid of growing old. And they're quite honest about it.
In their first full-length LP, slated for release in the UK 18 June, lead singer and band songwriter Adam Baker croons over lost time with everything from his family members to the bottle. But where others have crooned and failed, the North Carolina group elicits a sometimes-uncomfortable amount of honesty that reflects the youthful notion of the all-encompassing rock epic.
Though not acutely refined like aged works from more exposed artists, the willingness of the band to explore unapologetically wiser rock influences allows them to create a clearly ambitious project that is okay with being somewhat unoriginal, as long as it works anyway. The Annuals, whose sound reflects influences ranging from giants Pulp and Radiohead to Animal Collective, are certain of how much they don't know, comfortable with tunes that stay in the abstract as long as they preserve their tonal intensity.
Each piece swells and subsides, often breaking down into little movements, but the energy is retained in the urgency of Baker's voice and crisp song writing. The opening track, Brother, crawls along under the whisper of Baker's breath. Just when it feels like things are about to fall apart, synthesizer, played by Baker, and guitar grab it by the bootstraps and hike it up to the giant choral climb to the end.
Dry Clothes is the highlight of the album, beginning with swirling tones that erupt in Baker's chanting of "dry clothes" that slowly develops to a shrill, urgent plea. Baker's warbling cry in Complete, Or Completing has unavoidable comparison to Bright Eyes front man Conor Oberst's yelps in The Calendar Hung Itself, early days of stardom for the American icon.
When the music is translated to the stage, it implodes with energy. Baker's focus is intense - when he opened for the National two weeks ago he seemed in a trance state, rarely removing his eyes from some point in space to recognize the crowd - but he pairs it with flailing and near-Thom Yorke dances across the stage. Annuals often look like a band that's trying to look bigger than it is, but who's to blame a young group with so much potential for wanting to look to the skies?
- Seth Graves