There are small glimpses of pure genius on Be He Me, the debut album from Raleigh, North Carolina's the Annuals. But these moments—and they are just that: quick fleeting moments—are scattered haphazardly throughout the album, making it the most uneven recording you could possibly imagine.
It's not ideal to pick and choose tracks on the collective work of a record, or to seek out the listenable segments of a song. But you feel forced to do that throughout Be He Me. The first two-and-a-half minutes of "Dry Clothes" is summertime sweet, with overlapping notes and that polite collaborative freakout of early Arcade Fire songs. But soon the sweetness subsides and you are left with an annoying repetitive drone that leaves you stumbling toward your stereo. Skip the song, or just turn the damn thing off, it doesn't matter at that point. It's frustrating to be teased with such pop brilliance, only to have the rug pulled out from under you, leaving you with a bunch of songs you'll happily skip your way through.
The Annuals were introduced in a flurry of justified hype with their wonderful Big Zeus EP. Bloggers and the UK press quickly tossed around some grand praise, then waited patiently for Be He Me. But when it was released: tumbleweeds. Well, okay, it wasn't that bad, but Zeus raised the bar to a level that few bands could ever reach, including the Annuals. The quick hype, and success, of bands like the Shins and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, put far too much pressure on baby bands to achieve a level of greatness on a debut album. To succeed down the line—which they surely will—the Annuals needed to fail.
But there is hope here. The Annuals are kids—no one is over the age of 22—and while they might exist vicariously through their influences now, time will even this band out. For now, I'll still be listening, just with one hand on the fast-forward button, skipping my way through the songs.
The Annuals perform at Doug Fir on Wednesday, February 28.