Annuals – Be He Me

Be He Me

I’d never have imagined associating the chirping of crickets with anything short of an irredeemable borefest – popular culture be damned, I was wrong.

“Brother,” lead-off track to Be He Me, evolves behind the facade of an ambient, insect-centric landscape. Once the tiny creatures lose their prominence, North Carolina-based Annuals advance on the listener’s cognition with a bewildering collection of organic, relaxing, and deeply-involved tracks as dense and active as a forest’s flora yet as listenable as any other contemporary pop cut.

First impressions left me imagining Animal Collective strung out on barbiturates and stranded in the woods, recording equipment and a bevy of instruments existing as their sole physical attachments. However, scrutiny – as it has a penchant to do – revealed what might very well be the antithesis to the “freak folk” movement altogether. Annuals naturalize and nurture dense sonic scenery into tight pop vignettes whereas groups in the genre have a tendency to debase conventionality for the sake of all things bizarre and outlandish. This gentle technique aids in the creation of a far more sentimental and passionate work, hoisting an emotive, narrative capability above alienating contemporaries.

Granted, Be He Me isn’t afraid to approach the fuzzed-out, sing-along-in-tongues territory charted by those groups when it allows whirling howls, meticulously-placed aural aberrations, and off-kilter vocal dynamics to bleed into the tracks like indiscreet trails of color slung about an abstract work of art, but the bulk of Annuals’s material charts ground that the freakier bands willingly avoid by opting for such unorthodox soundscapes. Dabbling in these atypical techniques allows the band to bore into the listener’s consideration and then consequentially embed much more commonplace modes in areas otherwise unattainable by a simple pop tune. The songs are then gloriously down to earth and wholly natural – much better suited for a get together around the fire with close acquaintances than for a day at the zoo with distortion pedals and individuals in painted masks.

When “Brother” was first released months ago, it causes quite a stir on various blogs and publications, and, I must say, all the press is well warranted. Its frail acoustic origins burst into a brusque, exhilarating imagining of a hike gone awry, yet the brume of enlivened drumming and cathartic, over-dubbed shouts never send the general serenity of the track into disarray befuddlement. “The Bull and the Goat” sports scattered percussion alongside Bakers’s flushed, alleviating vocals to achieve a fusion of relaxation and animation. “Dry Clothes” is as bubbly and harmonic as an Islands song and arguably more focused and better produced, resulting in a crisp cut of folky cheer; the same description easily extends to the greater part of Be He Me,

With their debut, Annuals extend an invitation into a mossy alcove, one sequestered off by the hanging of lush curtains of vegetation and lit by a hanging moon in a cloudless sky. Be He Me offers a snapshot of a picturesque scene worth reviewing and revisiting time and time again.