Annuals - Be He Me
The invasion of deliciously odd indie groups from across the pond continues unabashed, with the scene's junior wing following in the footsteps of much-fêted groups like Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire. Highly rated six-piece Annuals, none of whom are older than 22 years-old, spring fresh out of the traps with their debut album Be He Me.
A quick glimpse at the tracklist reveals a theme of keeping it in the family, with titles including Mama, Father and Brother. The latter is the pick of the bunch, opening with the sound of cicadas and a gentle hiss of feedback before the military-style drums kick in and the song explodes into life, elegantly blooming into a fine miniature anthem. On the other hand, Mama's gentle acoustic lament and the delicate meanderings of Father can be safely filed under nice but dull. Elsewhere, the showtune-style Carry Around, all manic proclamations and pirouetting retro-futurist keyboards, is a quirky delight and Complete, Or Completing has a giddy, off-kilter charm.
Where the album falls down however is the sheer density of the production, which makes it impossible to drift away to despite its whimsical melodies and offbeat feel. The everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach really grates and it often feels like there's too much going on, a problem accenuated by the fact that frontman Adam Baker's vocals are often frustratingly low in the mix. The group's efforts to experiment and texturise their sound are commendable but leave the record feeling overcooked and their lack of experience in the recording studio all too apparent. What we're left with is a promising but patchy album that never succeeds in blossoming into something more than the sum of its parts.