While its members attended high school in Raleigh, Sedona gave way to a side project called Annuals. Both bands largely shared the same lineup, except where Kenny Florence fronted Sedona, Annuals played the songs of Adam Baker as Florence reverted to lead guitar. Suddenly, Sedona, which has since changed its name to Sunfold, became the band on the backburner: Annuals signed to big indie Ace Fu in 2005, became a buzz band in 2006 and announced a deal with RCA imprint Canvasback Music last year. This, then, is the Annuals' first major-label release, and they split its five tracks with forebears Sunfold. Surprisingly, Sunfold—the main gig turned renamed side project—bests Annuals here with its first two tracks in half a decade.
Where Annuals takes cues from the kitchen-sink, simmer-and-swell indie crowd, Sunfold refocuses '90s alternative rock with the familiar tools: "Between the Worlds" has the guitar harmonies Rivers Cuomo has been searching for since Pinkerton. Alternately, if Daniel Hart, the leader of Chapel Hill band The Physics of Meaning, had added violin to the track (as he does for the Annuals side of the split), it could be a Physics B-side. "Watering Pail" follows along the same path before veering off into light space rock, which resembles a bluesy Pink Floyd in Sunfold's hands.
It's not groundbreaking, but it's not as forgettable as Annuals' "Just Stay In," either. That song just floats, never touching down, let alone sticking. Thankfully, the rest of Annuals' tracks here have more substance: For 90 seconds, the acoustic guitar of "Sore" ambles along at an autumnal pace, backed by shuffling percussion. The first attempt at a full-band explosion fizzles quickly. The noise is exciting at first, but it lacks the flash or sizzle for which you've waited. A meandering comedown of a bridge leads into a more climatic second burst. It, at least, allows the dual drumming more time to build. "Around Your Neck" might be familiar to those who knew the band before their rise, and, on Wet Zoo, a less quirky, more polished take works with Florence's tasteful tones and a fervent gang-vocals and handclaps coda. This take improves on that of the band's 2006 demo, and it's also the highlight of the otherwise lackluster Annuals half.
Sedona/ Sunfold's second full-length, Toy Tugboats, is due July 22; Annuals' second-full length is due in September. Hearing what both bands do as they stake their own territory should be interesting.
Annuals plays Saturday, June 21, at The ArtsCenter at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10-$12. Sunfold has no shows scheduled.