Band to Watch: Annuals

01/28/2009 05:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Lately it takes a lot for me to really get into a band. There's a lot of music to sift through and most of what's out there really isn't worth a second play. When Annuals' second album, Such Fun, first came to my attention last fall, I had an a-ha moment. I paid attention. And then I listened to it again. And again. And when I saw they would headline Empty Bottle, I marked it on my calendar. This was at least two months ago. And I rarely plan that far ahead.

Their music has a positive, come-love-me vibe. It's engaging and full and rounded. But the recorded stuff doesn't hold a candle to what occurred in the live setting. The North Carolina six piece is such a tightly weaved, cohesive unit, that it's hard to hear where the guitars start and the rhythm section takes over. There's an incredible intricate balance of interlocking sounds that doesn't happen enough in music. That's what makes bands like Annuals special. They're not a dime a dozen. They have something unique to offer. Sure, they take influence from bands past. But they make it their own.

One thing that struck me during the show is that while Vampire Weekend exploded out of nowhere last year, they can't compete with Annuals. Annuals is what Vampire Weekend wishes it could be. With their swirling guitars and siren-like keyboardist, two drummers (one who doubles as a third guitarist -- and add a singer who also plays a drum) this collective sits at the odd crossroads where Jerry Garcia met the Arcade Fire (what? you don't think it could happen?). There's enough indie progressive theatrical experimentation coupled with drawn-out noodle-y jam extensions to make this a strong argument. Trust me.

Annuals have a light, ethereal sound that explodes with a Ska influence and instructs you to dance (although I could have done without a couple of their more countrified tracks). It's always a cherished moment when patrons of the Empty Bottle, a bastion of indie rock affectation, allow themselves to get swept up in the music being offered them that they actually dance and bounce. This happened tonight with Annuals.

Pay attention to this band. They could easily fit the late-night bill at the Rothbury Festival if Rothbury is going to happen. They straddle a world where bands like Thievery Corporation hang out and have some whiskey with Animal Collective ... and maybe Genesis circa A Trick of the Tail, if that all were actually doable.

Do yourself a favor. Go download Such Fun and watch for Annuals to come through town again. You'll be glad you did.