Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Annuals, Be He Me

With North Carolina, Duke and NC State all in close proximity, the Chapel Hill – Raleigh – Durham area of North Carolina has long been known as a hotbed of college basketball.  annualsAppears that’s not all that’s going on there.  They’re also producing music.  Good music.  I’ve previously reviewed The Coma’s CD “Spells” and “U Ready, Man?” from Hobex and enjoyed them both.  The Coma’s are from Chapel Hill and Hobex comes out of Durham.  Now we have the Raleigh band the Annuals and their first CD, “Be He Me”, may well be the best of the bunch.

The main guy here is Adam Baker, who wrote all the tunes, sings, and plays a truck load of instruments, but this doesn’t sound like a vanity project.  There are five other band members (Anna Spence, Kenny Florence, Mike Robinson, Nick Radford and Zack Oden) who almost all sing and taken together play all the instruments loaded in a second truck.  There are a lot of talented people here.  Although the Annuals don’t sound anything like the Comas, both bands share a fearless willingness to play whatever kind of music suits the needs and mood of the song.  The Annuals are a prime example of a subset of alt rock, indie pop, whatever you want to call it where bands refuse to stay within comfortably recognizable genres.

“Be He Me” opens with an extended section of night crickets chirping before a gentle acoustic guitar enters.  Then sweetly played strings appear.  You’re thinking “Ok, another sensitive alt-country singer songwriter.  Why did I buy this?”  And then the drums and guitars kick in and it goes in a whole other direction.  Many of the CD’s tracks have this characteristic of ending up in very different places from where they started but Baker is such a good songwriter that the development of each song feels natural and never forced simply for effect.  The Annuals’ music tends toward melodic, hook-filled pop but the songs are rife with interesting sound effects, musical detours, vocal harmonies and instrumental arrangements.  In addition, they do rhythm well which isn’t always the case with a band that has as strong a melodic and harmonic focus as this one.  A lot of that has to do with drummer Radford (or possibly Oden, who also plays drums along with just about everything else) who holds the beat while mixing in an ever changing array of fills and riffs.  He’s a solid and imaginative drummer.  “Carry Around” features a loping, rolling infectious rhythm and “The Bull and the Goat” falls into a killer percussion, bass and rhythm guitar groove on the out chorus that represents one of the band’s only mis-steps on the album.  They just get the groove settled when the song fades much, much too quickly.  This is a groove that easily demands 16 or, better yet, 32 or more measures to roll before fading.  It’s usually a good idea to leave ’em wanting more, but this is ridiculous.  It’s not a good idea to leave ’em frustrated.

Another problem lies in the recording.  Both Baker and Florence are credited with not only playing lead guitar but with guitar arrangements as well and there is a wealth of interesting guitar playing and interaction on the album.  The problem is that too often it gets lost in the wash of sound when the whole band is in full cry.  The same is true of Spence’s keyboard work.  The Annuals are band of good musicians playing carefully structured songs and they need a spacious recording that makes full use of the soundstage and clearly delineates each instrument.  “Be He Me” is not a lo-fi crappy recording by any means but it doesn’t have the quality of sound engineering that this band needs to really shine.

“Be He Me” is one of the better CDs I’ve heard this year and is strongly recommended to listeners who like music that draws from many genres to build something uniquely it’s own.  They’re doing a lot more than playing hoops in North Carolina.


10/03/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews |

1 Comment »

  1. […] You can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here […]

    Pingback by Guitar Blog Feeds » Blog Archive » Review: Annuals, Be He Me | 10/03/2007 | Reply

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