Review Summary: Annuals deliver a Pitchfork embraced combination of Broken Social Scene and Animal Collective with excellent debut.
The life of an Annual plant
is a sad one. Once planted, the annual, unlike the much luckier perennial, is doomed to survive only one year. It gives one year of pleasure, food or scent before dying. Indie-Rock group Annuals can only hope to outlast their namesake in this department.
Annuals began in North Carolina. Their first record, Be He Me
, begins with the brilliant Brother
. Brother, a track very much embraced by Pitchfork Media, itself begins with the collective’s leader, Adam Baker, singing “Me, and my Brother hiking/Me, and my Brother might find a turtle/We'll just have some fun”
overtop acoustic guitar arpeggios that would not be out of place in a Sufjan Stevens b-side. Amid hushed noises that sound remarkably like a field of crickets at night, the track explodes into a crashing mix of pounding drums, distorted guitars and quirky, Animal Collective-esque, strings. Baker concludes his near-epic trip down memory lane with the lines “Now I've grown bold, and lonely/I should have stayed with dear Brother at home/But we grew up old.”
and I sit in my broken computer chair in silent anticipation for what he will deliver next.
While listening to Be He Me
one is almost forced to draw up comparisons to many of Annuals’ influences: traces of Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene and the previously mentioned Animal Collective can be found in many of the album’s twelve tracks. Yet, with all of these influences present, Be He Me
still sounds like an original record. Track 8, The Bull and the Goat
, for instance, doesn’t sound anything like any of the previously mentioned have released thus far. Bouncy bass lines and strummed acoustic guitars give the track a very up-beat feel, almost reminiscent of Talking Heads. Airy distorted guitars, and later bright pianos, join in giving a dream-like quality to the song’s chorus.
This “dream pop” element is found in many places within Be He Me
. Dense layers of organ, saxophone and synthesizer join hands with acoustic guitar (an instrument that has a place in almost every song) and give the music a very light, spacious feel, the kind of feeling that Animal Collective incorporate into many of their albums. And, again like Animal Collective, hidden beneath these layers are truly well-written Pop songs. The piano-based Father
(Annuals have a thing for naming songs after relatives; track 9, a song that features prominent acoustic guitars and subtle choruses of horns, is called Mama
.) sounds like something Brian Wilson’s much younger, much darker, twin would write.
Overall, Annuals have made quite a splash within the Indie scene. They have bloggers, Pitchfork and AMG on their side. And, while comparisons to other bands are easy to come by, Be He Me is still a great record. Some tracks may be forgettable (many of which come in the first half, which is not nearly as good as the last half), but even those tracks have just the right combination of quirky synthesizers, acoustic guitar and simple drumming to make you enjoy every second. As far as imitating the annual plant
, career-wise, any twenty year old that could conjure up a track such as the sublime Ida, My
, which I have spent the last twenty minutes trying to do justice to (I have failed), is easily capable of lasting for quite some time. And, even if Annuals die within the year, they will have had one damn good year.