Annuals, Jessica Lea Mayfield
An adherent of the "more is more" philosophy, blogosphere darlings Annuals fashion widescreen pop majesties in the image of the Flaming Lips. Like the Lips, the Raleigh, North Carolina, sextet billows with fluffy, kitchen-sink arrangements that sample widely from baroque, twee and indie pop, cooked over a '70s soft-rock swagger and spiced with bits of electronic effusia and any spare strings they could lay their hands on. Their swelling, panoramic sonic adventures are frequently impressive (if sometimes overly grand), undercutting leader Adam Baker's pretty, more naturalistic folk-pop tendencies. Opener Jessica Lea Mayfield may not be a naturalist, but her vocals sound like they're resolutely dragging a gimpy leg through full-moon backwoods twilight before the big storm hits. Her parched, achy twang recalls Jolie Holland in its evocative, antediluvian air, as she laments her life falling apart ("Kiss Me Again") and contemplates perfidy ("I Can't Lie to You, Love"). The Kent, Ohio, singer grew up in her family's bluegrass band, a tone reverberating beneath Mayfield's shadowy elegies and amplified by her weary, beaten croon. Her full-length debut, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, was produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, whose heart-wrung blues riffs augment her stormy Americana sound.
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