Review Summary: Cool, calm water will bring back our voice
There is something so pure and simple about Be He Me
, the debut album from the experimental indie group Annuals. Like stumbling upon untracked soil in the murky depths of some lush forest, or experiencing an unadulterated moment of innocence, Be He Me
is less something you hear and more something that happens to you
. It is simplistic yet masterful, and its all-natural sound carries echoes of mountains, splashes of running water, and the cries of the birds, animals, and insects living harmoniously within Adam Baker’s creative, genre-bending sonic web. Between the album’s undeniably earthy sound and the band’s penchant for making catchy but complex indie-pop, Be He Me
is an album that truly brings it all to the table.
Annuals make a point of perfecting a seasonal
atmosphere, one that seems to favor autumn but could really be applied to any time or place in one’s mind. This is apparent from the opening minute of the lead track, ‘Brother’, which starts with a calming effect enhanced by the sound of crickets. Gentle acoustic guitar strums wrap themselves around swaying strings while painting a picture of a night spent below clear and starry skies. Suddenly, the song erupts into a magnificent combination of driving riffs, powerful drumming, and commanding vocals that eliminate any possibility of Be He Me
becoming a drab affair. As crickets and the sound of a babbling brook once again enter the forefront, morning approaches in the form of a songbird and the joyous ‘Dry Clothes.’ This ardent display of catchiness, vigor, and livelihood are in direct contradiction to the way that Be He Me
is introduced, illustrating the band’s absurd versatility within the first six minutes of the album. This is a trait that Annuals will never relinquish as the record tumbles, twists, and turns rather spontaneously while leaving something for everyone in its wake.
It is all too easy to get caught up in Be He Me
’s Animal Collective meets Broken Social Scene atmosphere, and this is a quality that makes all of Annuals’ songs even more digestable. Despite the wildly abundant variety here, the album never feels disjointed or unrelated. Everything is contained under one experimental umbrella, and the results yield everything from acoustic indie to psychedelic folk and dream pop. The instruments employed here also vary extensively, with all kinds of chimes and bells utilized in the percussion, graceful piano spread out liberally, and upbeat synthesizers pretty much everywhere. Beneath all these layers, however, is an extremely solid songwriting foundation. This is something someone either has or doesn’t have – and it can go a long way in determining the success of any given band. Luckily for Annuals, Adam Baker proves that he is more than efficient in that department – effortlessly crafting one borderline flawless piece after another.
If Be He Me
possesses an overt weakness, however, it is that not all of Baker’s creations have the same overwhelming effect as standout tracks such as ‘Brother’, ‘The Bull and the Goat’, or ‘Father.’ Many songs in the mid to later portion of the track listing don’t have a long-lasting appeal, something that holds Annuals back from creating a true classic on this record. For instance, ‘Bleary Eyed” and ‘Fair’, while possessing many solid ideas, pass by uneventfully and feel like filler on an album that otherwise holds its songs to such high standards. However, this also gives listeners something to look forward to in the future. After all, Be He Me
is Adam Baker scratching the surface, and there is no telling how high Annuals can go under his earnest and ambitious leadership.
As a whole, Be He Me
can best be described as refreshing. It may borrow influences from very popular icons (the aforementioned Animal Collective and Broken Social Scene, as well as a dash of Arcade Fire), but it still sounds completely genuine. The album’s sound alternates between woodsy, folk-inclined indie and bouncy, quick-witted pop, and although it may not be twelve tracks of pure gold, it still has more gold than anyone could possibly complain about receiving. Annuals have created an outstanding, if not essential, record for indie music fans. Between its rich, enveloping atmosphere and its ability to simultaneously get you tapping your feet, Be He Me
really is an album that won’t fade from memory any time soon.