Annuals got a lot of attention for their 2006 debut, Be He Me. It was pretty well deserved, even if their coffeeshop ready indie-pop wasn’t entirely unique; it was well-executed and contained a few surprises. There appeared to be big things on the horizon for Annuals, but those expectations were derailed by a soggy sophomore effort that fell prey to all the usual stereotypes about major label signings.
That was 2008, and this new decade finds the Annuals’ first attempt to recapture their freshman creative flame. The EP, Sweet Sister, turns largely successful. They’ve shirked the big label and put frontman Adam Baker in the production seat. Five very good songs result that reinvent themselves continually over generous running times.
Annuals have an interesting way of incorporating a smorgasbord of genres (a disco guitar line here, a world beat there) without making them the stars of the show. It’s an organic blend of influences, and it gives Annuals a quirky, cohesive sound that many of their contemporaries lack. They’re at their best when they leave out the electronic bag of tricks. It’s when they abandon their earthy roots for more high-tech instruments that things start sounding forced. “Flesh and Blood” works as a great country-tinged love song, but those starry bleep-bloops distract from the straight forward boot-stomper that it naturally is. And the opener, the excellent “Loxstep,” has a high energy percussion line that’s equal parts Caribbean groove and old school funk, but it also has an unnecessary vocal reverb thing going on. Can’t always get what you want.
On the whole, the entire affair seems a little too just-so, with the cutesy guitar plucking, girlie background vocals, and kitschy lyrics about broken hearts and such. Annuals know they aren’t reinventing the wheel, but they also know that five Broken Social Scene albums can’t all be wrong.