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On Second Listen: Annuals – Such Fun

on December 10, 2008, 11:30am

It must be quite a daunting task to try and follow a debut record that was met with such positive reviews from all the right places. That is what the Annuals set out to do with their sophomore release Such Fun. The North Carolina based sextet seems to be all about trying new things, and this record shows this in plain view as they skip through the modern rock spectrum with ease.

“Confessor” brings the power pop punch early on with its crisp, clean musical work, and long noted Bono inspired vocals. The layered pianos and frantic percussion on “Hot Night Hounds” make up the first of many creative tracks on this record. The feeling right off the bat is one of larger than life. Every note is blown out with a surprise STS9 like guitar section that shows off the writing skills of this eclectic group. The track has a lot of build up and strong moments, but it leaves you hanging, always staying up high, never venturing lower as if it were the last half of a much longer song that we will never hear. “Springtime” is the first to really be well rounded as it builds off of the piano introduction that leads into another monumental finish.

I feel I must clarify when I use such adjectives. They are merely there to describe the size of the sound, but when it comes down to it, at times the record can come across as trying to hard, leaving you with that awkward Coldplay taste in your mouth. This by no means is how every song is, and there are more than a few notable tracks to hold on to. “Down the Mountain”, and “Always Do” get countrified, showing off some Jenny Lewis style chugging, and lap steel skills. These are just a couple of those great moments where you can feel the honesty, and comfortably in the song writing.

By “Talking” I am officially lost. Are the Annuals indie pop, alt-country, nu-folk, or emo? All of the above is the answer. The track mentioned is an emo laced power rocker that would have any middle school girl screaming, but after it, things get back to where they shine with “Hardwood Floor”. Heavy on the Paul Simon ala Graceland era, Adam Baker bares his soul as he begs, “won’t you send me back home now?” while incorporating fluttery harmonies for ambiance. “Blue Ridge” sees the group embarking on musical score territory. The nature of the orchestral moments mixed with the narrative lyrics has you imagining the introduction of a new character in a play. This is one of a few tracks that utilizes string sections, and thankfully cuts out before it reaches the brink of becoming overblown. But not to worry, “Wake” takes care of that for you, just in case you were looking for it. A distant whistle carries the song to a larger than life finish that is heavy in the theatrics that actually end up saving the track. “Eyes In The Darkness” finishes off the record with another curve ball, this time with a little island fever. Claps and a simple organ bring out even more of the influence Simon has had on this band.

From power pop, to folk, and even cinematic scores, Annuals seem to cover a lot of ground on their follow up. Such Fun is a record that takes a few tries before it fully sinks in. You can hear the ambition in each and every song, but sometimes it can leave you skipping ahead. There are quite a few gems here to hold onto though, because with out a doubt, they know how to write a great song.

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