Label:Souterrain Transmissions Release date: 06/09/10 Link: Myspace Count the Rings is my first introduction to North Carolina band Annuals, it's hard to gauge my initial reaction but it swung wildly between “this is pretty all right actually” and “what the hell is this”. Annuals, you see, appear to be a rather diverse band. Count the Rings at it's best provides some pretty solid experimental rock, or indie pop, at it's worst it presents me with some world music influenced type thing, that defies description. Sounding somewhat like 'Livin' la Vida Loca' but with some indie rock thrown into the mix, if that makes any sense. Whatever, it's rubbish and I have no time for it. Despite that, at their best on Count the Rings Annuals are pretty good. They certainly know how to craft a excellent chorus, and Adam Baker has a pretty nice voice. Occasionally delving into what could be described as a slightly less weird Dirty Projectors, or a less good Arcade Fire, Annuals are clearly capable of making good 7/10 slightly experimental rock. Their material feels polished to a blinding sheen, so far as to be slightly too polished. Annuals have their strong pop sensibilities, but have scrapped their songs of any raw feeling or excitement in order to achieve their glitteringly shiny sound. It all sounds a little too radio ready, the vocals sounds somewhat auto tuned, to a Owl City level, while well produced and clean sounding music isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world, Annuals have managed to suck most of the life out of what is occasionally quite a good record. It's notable that half of the time a new song comes on, I forget that I'm not listening to spotify and it's time for an annoying advert. Annuals have simply made their music sound lifeless and dull, What can be take from Count The Rings then? At it's heart it's a good release, it has the odd great song, soaring chorus, excellent experimental touches, pieces of introductory noise that I've not heard used anywhere else. However it's been ruined, overproduced and far too lackadaisical with genre. If Annuals realised what they were good at, and written a record upon those lines rather than trying to implement new genre and ideas everywhere then Count The Rings could have been a seven out of ten album. It feels, too often, like an experiment gone wrong. Annuals have had enough time to get their formula right, and it's disappointing that new ideas backfire and hurt them so often here. When Annuals get it right, when they do not overproduce, when they aren't messing around with world music stuff, for example on 'Allways Do', the music works. Unfortunately the rest of it doesn't. Photobucket