As much as I hate to say this right off, Annuals are going to get a lot of Arcade Fire comparisons thrown at them. Probably for good reason, too: both bands have busy arrangements, write climactic songs, sing poignantly about their recently deceased family members, aren’t afraid to use prominent string arrangements, eschew a “the” at the front of their name when they could really use one — the list goes on. But for all the time Arcade Fire puts on that distant, baroque sort of vibe, Annuals paint their record with this slick production that embraces technology rather than sidesteps it. Be He Me sounds like a studio record, and a masterful one at that. For a self-produced band, the sound is amazingly dense and such a fresh mix of classic instrumentation and electronics — a better comparison might be John Vanderslice’s “Sloppy Hi-Fi” technique, or maybe the few good songs on Bright Eyes’ Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (the “electronic” one of his most recent pair of records).
Annuals also take way more from mainstream ‘90s rock bands than any other influences, likely because most of the band members are not even 20 years old. Considering that the majority of their indie rock peers are at least a little bit on the older side, Annuals are among the first generation of bands that got to bypass most of that late 80s/early 90s alt-rock and embrace what came after grunge started to fade out. This is not to say that they outright sound like Sponge or whoever, just that there’s a jacked up sense of drama to their sound that resembles that of bands like Smashing Pumpkins once they got more ambitious with their later output. It seems like a lot of that mid-decade output has been mostly overlooked, but maybe once we’re done milking New Wave for all it’s worth (which is fine, too, just getting a little old at this point), we can get more bands like this to remind us of how good all that post-grunge stuff really was.