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.”