Greg Annussek’s website claims his influences to be “Elvis Costello, Wilco, and Courtney Love”, all of which seem strange in light of his country-influenced alternative rock. With his slight, dreamy voice and humming background guitars, Annussek comes across as a thoughtful folk-rock poet, but very far from any of the influences he cites.
His peppy, stripped-down approach to music is appealing, with the right amount of playfulness and charm, but, for the most part, these songs are nothing special. Annussek seems like he is going through the motions the majority of the time, not bringing any passion or much true emotion to his music. While there’s a sweetness to his style, there’s not much that speaks out. Little Palaces is too quiet and too forgettable to make an impression.
Annussek has some moments of insight in his lyrics, which are somewhat hit or miss. On “Long Way Down” he sings “You can fill me in on the parts I missed / Before you gave yourself the slip” to a girl who has lost herself in a dead-end relationship, showing sensitivity to her situation. However, the everyday details of “Sunday Again”, like “Now she reads the paper / As the clothes hang on the line”, are just mundane and aren’t elevated to any new meaning. Overall, though, Annussek’s simple language communicates the right feelings, just not with much depth. He is reflective, but he doesn’t bring too much from the inside to the surface of his music.
While there’s an obvious attempt to make a connection with listeners through the open honesty of Annussek’s delivery, the songs are sadly basic, never straying from a middle ground of friendly, compassionate rock. The wailing country guitars on “Didn’t You Know?” join with Annussek’s overly heartfelt vocals into something that is a bit too dramatic. Thankfully, the song doesn’t last too long, and Annussek does succeed with tracks like “Mr. Myers” and “You Bow Down”.
Mostly, Little Palaces is too lightweight to cause any effect, and Annussek is aided by its shortness. The ten songs here combine into an album that’s only thirty minutes long, giving listeners just the right dose of Annussek’s music. Each song is fairly short, and this keeps each from collapsing under Annussek’s flaws. He understands his limitations, and by keeping his songs short, doesn’t try to make them seem too important. He has realized the simplicity of his music, and lets it speak for itself. The fact that it really doesn’t say anything is forgivable in light of this.
Greg Annussek has done his best with Little Palaces, and it’s a pleasant work, if a bit inconclusive. It mostly does what it needs to do and little more, and doesn’t have the dynamics of those he calls influences, but there’s an undeniable unaffectedness to Annussek’s music that makes it worth hearing, even if you won’t remember it after it’s over.