Annuals - Such Fun

Very often a band's second album is the do or die point, especially in the here-today-gone-tomorrow world we live in.
So many "stunning debut" albums are released each year that bands get fluffed to no end, only to have their follow-up effort crushed by critics and forgotten by fans. With so much music being created, there's little time to waste with sounds that are not excellent. So it was with great joy that I spun the new Annuals album over and over again, reveling in the latest achievement of the North Carolina band.

All the things that make Annuals great are amped up and clarified here - scenic, boisterous musical backdrops, jubilant choruses, emotional ups and downs, and hints of many styles, from epic indie rock to electronic folk and crunchy pop masterpieces to fractured alt-country ringers, all of which exhibit their orchestral command of the musical language and flair for the dramatic. The stylistic juxtapositions are nearly jarring, but the flow of the album is saved as the songs possess an oddly pleasant continuity. "Always Do" undergoes a vibrant transformation between its somber start and finish, and "Talking" kicks out the jams with a radio-friendly rock sound (but with Annuals' special twisted touch) which is followed by the gentle acoustic tones of "Hardwood Floor" and the demented symphonic blues of "Hair Don't Grow."

Annuals 2006 debut, Be He Me, became a sensation and had plenty of time to make the rounds, so most listeners were officially tired of it as of early 2008. With fans thirsting for a new album and the world waiting to see what would happen, Such Fun has been unleashed, and this listener is beyond pleased - not only with the great music, but the whole vibe of the album. The artwork, song titles, and breezy effortlessness of the whole thing give extra enjoyment to the experience and great hope for the band's future. If making this album was as fun as the title implies, then we've got a lot to look forward to from Annuals.

--Bryan Rodgers