With the demise of rock radio and the rise of technology and the Internet, the Web is the most reliable and available place to discover new music. That’s led to a boom in indie music, but I’m not sold on this being a big upgrade for fans. It seems any band with one good song can make that moment of magic available to the masses and be deemed the next Arcade Fire or Broken Social Scene.
Everyone wants to be the first to discover the next big thing, and the Net has given every band an honest chance to be just that. The result: A watered-down indie scene. We have an overabundance of bands touted and portrayed as worthy of acclaim, but in reality we’ve just lowered the bar. A few memorable songs and the backing of the Internet is enough to be mentioned alongside defining indie bands such as Guided by Voices and Yo La Tengo.
Annuals fall right in the middle of this mess. The Internet buzzed for a few months before the release of the band’s debut, Be He Me, because of favorable reviews of the first available track “Brother.” Immediately, the band was heaped with a multitude of praise. But Be He Me is far from its comparisons. This isn’t to say it is bad: It isn’t. But Annuals is a group of ambitious, smart but recklessly unfocused and inexperienced musicians who have yet to grow into their own sound.
Be He Me reeks of a band that has hopes of grandeur but ultimately sinks in its own overindulgences. A restless creative spirit pervades Be He Me. The band members amass layers of guitar, feedback, keyboards, strings and screams on their sprawling, epic and tribal sound with an emotional, vulnerable core. And the one-two-three punch of “Brother,” “Dry Clothes” and “Complete and Completing” is exciting. The band uses a catchy melody to pull listeners in and then explores alternative avenues of instrumentation while still following their melodic core. These songs are so rich they demand repeat listens. But after four additional less successful attempts to bottle their magic, Annuals decide it is time to move on. Over the course of the final five songs, the band members try on five different hats: college jam band, acoustic whisperers, campfire sing-along, earnest piano men, and Animal Collective rip-off.
Be He Me ultimately fails because the members of Annuals are either too impatient to fully develop their sound or too ambitious to settle and refine what they do best. Where they should be perfecting melodies and layering instrumentation, they are hopping the musical map with a hodgepodge of styles that are either ill fitting or unrealized. In order to perfect their ideal sound, they must first define and develop it.