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. Frontman and principal songwriter Adam Baker is able to give a hook like "Your line around my neck keeps pulling" on opener "Loxstep" surprising buoyancy as the song's Tropicália-inspired percussion is layered over increasingly dense electronic noises. "Turncloaking" begins as a straightforward folk tune before the chorus turns on an unexpected Latin beat, and the fantastic cover of Johnny Cash's "Flesh and Blood" that closes the set both respects the song's country origins while bringing an effective and slick pop sheen to the production.
If such a broad spectrum of influences suggests a wicked case of ADHD, it also keeps Sweet Sister compelling for its entire duration, which isn't the backhanded compliment it might seem to be. Moreover, the band is able to focus all of their influences into a distinctive sound and know when particular instrumental flourishes are in service to a song speak to Annuals's burgeoning maturity.