Aftermath: Annuals at Walter's On Washington

If you could squeeze music from the udders of a cow, pour it a cup, mix in equal parts chocolate sauce and broken up pieces of stained glass stolen from the Vatican, drink it while on the down-slope of a roller-coaster, go home and sit on the back-porch and listen to your great-grandfather talk about snow while eating corn on the cob until you think to yourself "Goddamn, I need some ecstasy," you'd have an idea of what it's like to see Annuals. They are original because they are everything.

People kept telling me all night, "these guys are a jam band, bro, I swear." But they are not a jam band. They are a pop band. No wait, they're a punk band. Shit, I mean a neo-prog country band that sounds a shit load like Superchunk if Superchunk was heavily influenced by Shabba Ranks and then Shabba Ranks called up Animal Collective while Animal Collective was having sex with post-2007 Elf Power and their kid was named Man Man. And is it just me or does lead vocalist Adam Baker's voice sound a wee bit like Dashboard Confessional?

All of it was on display Thursday night at Walter's. In front of a sorta good-sized crowd, the six piece blogosphere wunderkinds from North Carolina gave us all a taste of what they can do live, of which has aptly been compared to Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene. It's the drums, man. They pound electric, producing a) a literal light show with each thump (they really do, there are lights in those things, red ones); and b) a metaphorical light show in your brain that transfers to your eyeballs and makes you want to blink so many times that you begin to gouge. Annuals' instrumentals are a dizzying display of musical originality, sometimes overshadowing Baker's obvious talent for song-craft.

The set was a good mix of Annuals' catalog. They opened with "Hot Night Hounds," the second track from their newest (and amazing) record, Such Fun, which was a good drum laden lead in to "Always Do," a countrified almost Fleetwod Mac-ian folk ballad. The eclectic nature of the set list had some people in the audience a bit mystified, it seems, because people kept leaving. And stayed gone.

It was strange. But what else do you expect from an Annuals show? These guys are nothing if not enigmatic. "Confessor," the first single from Such Fun came next, and it was at this point that those who remained really got into the show and turned their indifference into dancing shoes. It became great. One of the highlights of the night was when Baker showed off his vocal chops on "Hardwood Floor," the song that I think best defines what Such Fun is trying to do.

For the most part, though, the crowd responded more favorably to the old stuff, particularly the always popular "Brother," and "Carry Around," the first song of the encore, after following "Wake," the final song on Such Fun, and a perfectly appropriate song to end a show with, be it pre-encore or post. But the song they did end with, "Hair Don't Grow," felt like the only way to properly end the show - it's the one the audience was clamoring to hear all night because it acts as the climactic dance moment on Such Fun, and it did Thursday night as well.

It seems that Annuals are fast becoming one of those bands that must be seen in a venue like Walter's to be fully appreciated, a la Arcade Fire circa 2004. So if you missed the show, oops. Youtube them.

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Brandon K. Hernsberger