Annuals - Count the Rings

by Nathan Fidler Rating:8.5 Release Date:2010-08-23

It's not easy to describe the sensation you get upon hearing Count the Rings, the third full length effort from North Carolina's Annuals, but let's try by saying this: It's like putting your head into a washing machine, spinning the drum and finding your head in an alternate dimension where landscapes are sounds and colours are melodies.

'Eyes in the Darkness' is a relatively accessible introduction to the sound of the album, indicating why it's been selected as the lead single. Percussion cascades with jittery precision as lead vocalist Adam Baker yells for you to "just take my call". Throughout this dimension we've stumbled into there is a beauty both organic and processed. While pianos tread lightly, anchoring a melody and lending gravity, the synths and guitars burst forward dancing erratically, yet in still sync, with them. Comparison is an ugly game to play but if you're looking for them then they lie in the intelligent Americana of The Shins as well as the elctro-experimental album Digital Ash in a Digital Urn by Bright Eyes. Even when comparing himself to damp wood on 'Hardwood Floor' Adam Baker still manages to create beautiful visuals and a sound filled with pain without being depressing.

There are pedestrian areas in most albums these days and Count the Rings is no exception. The grey areas come in the form of 'Springtime' and 'The Giving Tree' which aren't dire but they seem disposable compared to the songs which follow and precede them. 'Loxstep' is a standout track which delights, channelling what sounds like a didgeridoo through a banjo in the intro, it pops up again later bursting forward over foamy guitars. It's an ever-changing sound found across the entire album, like a kaleidoscope of music which you can't stop looking into. Despite all the changes and the directions it never seems too farfetched or disjointed, just superbly composed with care and attention.

Annuals apparently are not just musicians but take a serious interest in green-fingered hobbies. If they can prune and nurture their sound then they could see themselves blooming and wrapping vines around hearts. It's hard to tell if a record or a band will stand the test of time but this album certainly indicates the potential for some serious success in the future.

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