Annuals

Such Fun

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The majestic mountain range and the happy trees that surround it on the cover of the Annuals' second album, Such Fun, are the work of the late Bob Ross, the big-haired landscape painter whose art instruction series was a PBS staple for decades. The choice is fitting, because just as Ross could summon an evocative image of the great outdoors with a few well-placed brush strokes, the six members of the Annuals have created a widescreen indie pop spectacle that sounds big as all outdoors despite the rather conventional size and scope of the band. Annuals leader Adam Baker wrote, arranged, and co-produced Such Fun along with handling guitars, keyboards, percussion, and lead vocals, and you sure can't say the guy lacks vision -- from the laid-back semi-ska of "Hardwood Floor," the shred-tastic guitar heroics of "Hot Night Hounds," and the crunchy '70s-style rock of "Talking" to the psychedelic drift of "Hair Don't Grow," the country-accented melody of "Always Do," and the massed choral splendor of "Springtime," Baker never passes up an opportunity to pull something new out of his bag of tricks, and his bandmates invariably rise to the challenge, especially Kenny Florence on guitar and pedal steel and drummer Nick Radford. For all the talent Baker and the Annuals show on Such Fun, the album's relentless eclecticism begins to work against it after a certain point -- the musical shape-shifting keeps it from developing a coherent musical personality that would hold the pieces together, and the arrangements often sound overcooked when a more concise approach would better serve Baker's genuine knack for a tune. Next time out, maybe the Annuals should think simple watercolors rather than a massive fresco -- Such Fun might fill that space over the fireplace, but it doesn't really pull the room together.

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