Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.

Like the Head and the Heart or the National Parks, Annabelle's Curse have evolved immensely since their indie-folk inception. Banjo-driven stadium riffs have made way for more cerebral compositions, simmering in the folk-rock of their origins as much as textured indie pop. The guttural roots rock of their initial presentation still turns its head here, but it's savvier and more confident. Out today, Vast Oceans is a slam-dunk for Annabelle's Curse.

Album opener "Bailout" sets things straight immediately, with slinky, synthetic bass leading the charge beside smoky guitar melodies. The harmonies at the core of the band's structure since their onset are present. The music that unfurls around them is what's different, more learned and scintillating than past iterations. "Pull the Weeds" invokes Americana twang in a new way, with swooning pedal steel and banjo coming together to develop an atmospheric core to their studied indie rock. Even a song that leans on more traditional means of pleasing an audience like "Thunder", with an inherently pleasing, inspiriting, pop-driven chorus at its center, basks in descending piano flourishes and a saxophone solo across its bridge.

Annabelle's Curse play well to their folk roots, too. "New Glow" is a heartening duet between vocalists Tim Kilbourne and Carly Booher that only bursts into a rock edge with its triumphant crescendo. "Foul Beast" features playful mandolin riffs at its core despite its synthetic leanings. Elsewhere, the titular single "Vast Oceans" is a psychedelic anthem full of trippy Americana noir, and the subtle drive of "Seven Seas" works to quiet the mood directly after that.

In what may be the album's opus, however, Annabelle's Curse reminds listeners of their power as lyricists with "For Layla" as they strip back hefty production for a longing vocal production from Kilbourne that's comparatively light on instrumentation. They continue their ascent into further edges of the indie sphere with "Call of the Void" and "Bolts and Steel" before ending comfortably with the familiar warmth of "Writing on the Wall" and its yearning, folksy production.

Kilbourne tells PopMatters, "Vast Oceans is a complex 11-song album whose songs cover a variety of topics including the growing partisan divide in our country, dealing with bullies, the eternal nature of love, overwhelming emotions and their toll on the soul, stifling grief caused by death, the power of lies, and the cultivation of a fruitful spirit. Even though this is our fifth album, it's the album that I am the most satisfied with."

"The themes of this record are eerily relevant to our current predicament. It addresses many of the emotions that I've gone through during this pandemic. We recorded the record at Echo Mountain Studio in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. It was tracked between July and October of 2019."






Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."


The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.


Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.