Album :: Annuals, Be He Me

Every once and a while, an album comes along that defies definition. The mix of genres, influences and experi-
mentation leaves listeners scrambling to pin the music down - a music critic's wet dream and nightmare at the same time. Be He Me is such an album. The young - no one is over 22 - members of Annuals have formed a musical collective that has seemingly unlimited potential for greatness.

The obvious Arcade Fire comparison has to be made right off the bat. They are the first thing you think of when the sprawling guitar, concussive percussion, and blithesome shouting burst through the quiet strings and cricket noises halfway through the amazing opener, "Brother" (mp3). However, the second thing you think is how Annuals just outdid Arcade Fire - and it's only the first track. A wider range of influences open up after that. While they have the instrumentation of Arcade Fire or Broken Social Scene, Be He Me also features Mike Patton-esque production, moments of psychedelia that sound like old Smile-era Brian Wilson and the electronic tinkering of Thom Yorke. The end result is a dense, majestic epic that carries listeners through a gauntlet of emotions and looks towards what music may one day sound like.

Lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Adam Baker is mostly to blame for this magnificent opus, and the sickening part is that he was only 19 when he laid out the album's complex arrangements. However, the six-member band's dramatic performances, featuring multiple instrument switcheroos, will no doubt help Annuals become one of those bands that you get sick of hearing about. Their collective approach harkens back to the days of Elephant 6 and also recalls modern contemporaries like Islands and Animal Collective, yet Be He Me still stands on its own as an estimable masterpiece.

4.5 of 5.0

Check Annuals out on the web.

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