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Friday, February 15, 2008

Annuals "Frelen Mas"

What is it with bands these days? When I was a kid, bands released their double-live gonzo extra bonus length LPs with great fanfare, 216 page booklets inside their plush gatefold album covers. Nowadays I'm seeing all these EPs. For you kids, EPs used to refer to "extended play" vinyl records that were not full "long play" album length, but were "extended" when compared with singles. In the modern age, EP stands for "not long enough to call it an album, but that's all yer gettin' you losers! And another thing.. get off my lawn!"

So today I'm reviewing the download only EP "Frelen Mas" from Raleigh's sextet Annuals. When I asked drummer Nick to translate the titles of the non-English sounding song titles (both the title track and "Nah Keseyi"), he would only say that they are "curses", but would not tell me more than that. This must be an exercise for the reader. Anyone?

"Frelen Mas" is comprised of tracks that did not make the "Be He Me" album, so in a way they are Annuals "red-headed step-children", but there are still some goodies to be had here. My favorite track is "Such a Mess", which my manager off-handedly labeled "acoustic industrial", a pretty good description of this bass heavy layered confection, though it's not really acoustic. The rest of the tracks range from an Annualized version of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" with just enough synth noise to make it interesting, to the farm life inspired title track. Overall, this EP has lighter alterna-folk feel than their album "Be He Me", which was one of my favorite albums of 2006. Definitely get "Be He Me" before you buy the EP.

If I had to put a finger on what stands out with this band, it would be the intricate layered sound, Adam Baker's all-out vocal abandon, rich harmonies, and overall outstanding musicianship. Look for their forthcoming album this spring, but in the meantime you can find "Frelen Mas" at iTunes.

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