In the summer of 2007, I was stuck in suburban Nashville, working a banal job answering phone calls and being verbally assaulted by real estate agents well into their mid-life crises. So when Bonnaroo came back again to Manchester, Tennessee for its annual festival of drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll right before my birthday, I was unfortunately left behind in the alternate world of sobriety, celibacy and office music (which is mostly “Fix You” by Coldplay, one of the great musical gag-inducers).
However, my good friends attended – much to my jealousy – and got a first glance at Annuals, a band whose live performance blew them all away. They even got to meet lead singer Adam Baker and keyboardist slash singer slash hottie Anna Spence, who signed their debut album, Be He Me, for me in honor of my birthday. Granted, Baker penned the phrase “Happy 20th birthday, Jeff!” on the record – inaccurate in both year count and the spelling of my name – but my friends loved their music so much they didn’t have the heart to tell them they were wrong.
The six-piece band’s work juxtaposes beautifully synchronized strings with bizarre electonica noise to create a sound that is both violently emotional and uniquely poppy. Vocalist Baker alternates between sweet harmonies and urgent screaming during songs, giving Annuals’ tunes the ability to suddenly alternate between tones of love and hate.
For instance, in their song “Sore” from their recent Wet Zoo EP, the band uses a continual, poetic verse, complete with melodic violins and quiet, controlled percussion to build the tune for nearly two minutes. Finally, Baker bursts into a bombastic and triumphant chorus. The song matches the tone of exhaustion in the verse, singing about the tiring nature of the every day, with a joyous chorus about love getting you through these sore times.
Their previous work on 2006’s Be He Me includes plenty of other brilliant tunes. On their “blog-phenomenon” hit “Brother”, which gained significant recognition from Pitchfork Media and Spin.com, the band is barely audible through the first half of the song. But once Baker gives the signal, his group explodes sonically and doesn’t stop until the final seconds. Annuals’ diametric use of volume, precision and tone creates some of the most exciting tunes around.
The Raleigh, NC indie-rock group is releasing their sophomore effort, Such Fun, on Oct. 7, and is coming to Atlanta this fall. Although Annuals may not be able to accurately spell or count years, they are still able to put out phenomenal shows and records that will leave your ears anything but “sore.”
by Asst. Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf