Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Review: Annuals - Sweet Sister EP (* * * 1/2)

After a major label debut LP a couple years ago, Annuals return, not with another major release, but with a self-produced/self-released EP entitled Sweet Sister. I'm not sure if it's a precursor to a full-length later this year or simply a chance to release some material without outside influence, but Sweet Sister seems to have the free-spirited feeling and exploratory nature of the latter. The five songs of the EP are often stylistically similar to the group's previous effort, Such Fun, but an obvious influx of influences (along with total control over the end result) makes for some entertaining if unfocused detours here. So the album doesn't play as a cohesive statement or even establish a certain new direction for the band, but it's fun, lighthearted, and easily enjoyable - the perfect accompaniment to the approaching Spring season.

Beginning with the smooth, rhythmic opener "Loxtep," it's immediately clear that Annuals intended to widen their sonic palette a great deal here. With bright synth riffs, marimbas, and a sampled choir of children, the track should be a mess, and I suppose it could easily be labeled as such, but it's a really catchy mess and intelligently assembled as well. The title track blends similarly disparate influences to an effective result, but "Holler and Howl" abruptly switches gears to a horn and accordion-laden circus tune that bounces its way to a beautiful orchestral outro. With the exception of the lackluster "Turncloaking," the album is a good deal of fun if you don't mind the head-spinning flow of the thing, and with a sunny (and relatively normal) cover of Johnny Cash's "Flesh and Blood" to close, Sweet Sister is a treat for fans that should tide them (us) over until Annuals give us a full compliment of songs.

Loxtep (MP3)