Annuals’ glorious 2006 debut, Be He Me, gave audiences high on Animal Collective’s Feels another huff of colorful energy, but the one criticism consistently leveled at it was that it had too many ideas running amok. As if by a reflex, the young six-piece from North Carolina trucked to Sony and released Such Fun, their fully realized sophomore slump. Sweet Sister is yet another response to the critics; billed as a move back to an indie label (Banter, in this case) and a “return to form,” this five-track EP aims itself squarely between the two full-lengths, yet it still doesn’t find the correct balance.
It’s Be He Me in mindset, to an extent, but it’s all Such Fun in execution. “Loxtep”’s blipping tunefulness and alternations from chipper to muscular would have been more satisfying if the song didn’t sound like it was written on a computer. You don’t sense that there’s much of a band behind this, especially on “Turncloaking” and “Holler and Howl”, Bisquick-y filler between the disc’s more memorable moments. The title track has a nice country-calypso vibe, with a fluid rhythm section and a chorus of “oh”s and “ah”s that’s beautifully produced. “Flesh and Blood” is as close in flavor (if not in meter) to the near-public domain “There’s a Hole in the Bucket” as it is to the Johnny Cash original, suitable for a children’s video about the Old West. How strange that even in their efforts to free the beast a little, Annuals have become one of the tamest bands around. Should their next full-length follow suit, okay, but they really can’t afford another flop. Somewhere, the Tasmanian devil inside singer/composer Adam Baker is chomping at the bit—let’s wheel that sucker out, shall we?