Continuing the eclectic thread that stitched together 2008’s Such Fun, this EP tackles multiple styles over the course of 19 minutes. Leadoff track “Loxtep” is a gearhead’s paradise, filled to the brim with whizzing computer noises, Latin rhythms, post-production studio effects, and toots from every instrument imaginable, while the title track finds an unlikely balance between tropicalia and Ibiza club music. Sweet Sister concludes with two country-tinged tracks -- including a cover of Johnny Cash’s 1970 hit “Flesh & Blood” -- but even those feature some surprise additions, from the polyrhythmic percussion and DJ squiggles of “Holler and Howl” to the twinkling indie pop polish that coats the Cash tune.
Packing an entire SXSW’s worth of musical styles and instruments into a scant 19 minutes, North Carolina sextet Annuals makes the most of Sweet Sister‘s EP format. Since the abbreviated running time leaves no real room for weak material or lazy arrangements, the band truly goes for broke, displaying the ear for indelible pop melodies and the eclectic, kitchen-sink instrumentation that made their previous full length sets such standouts. What distinguishes Annuals among their indie-pop contemporaries is a real sense of levity and a fearless approach to rhythm.
In the career-defining profile of Annuals that appeared in the 2007 music issue of Oxford American, the North Carolina band came off as the mid-2000s equivalent of the slacker: the easygoing multi-tasker. Their 2006 debut, Be He Me, a timely mix of Animal Collective before they went electronic and Arcade Fire before they went morose, had them positioned to be an ideal test case for the starmaking ability of blogs. But bandleader Adam Baker and crew seemed just as excited and invested in their various electro side projects as they were in their meal ticket.
Annuals’ glorious 2006 debut, Be He Me, gave audiences high on Animal Collective’s Feels another huff of colorful energy, but the one criticism consistently leveled at it was that it had too many ideas running amok. As if by a reflex, the young six-piece from North Carolina trucked to Sony and released Such Fun, their fully realized sophomore slump. Sweet Sister is yet another response to the critics; billed as a move back to an indie label (Banter, in this case) and a “return to form,” this five-track EP aims itself squarely between the two full-lengths, yet it still doesn’t find the correct balance.