"It's been a couple years since I gave a fuck/ It's been a couple more since I ran out of luck."
That's the opening couplet from "Omnicide" — the lead-off to Time Stamp, Annuals' first full-length in five years — and it couldn't be more blunt about the struggles that have forestalled its release. Since ascending to major label success — 2008's Such Fun came out on the Columbia Records subsidiary Canvasback — the group has parted ways with the imprint and endured the financial fallout from a pretty devastating break-in and theft at their practice space, all while weathering the advancement of time and lives that too often upends bands, even ones who haven't been hit with such bad fortune.
Last Tuesday, with little fanfare, Annuals added Time Stamp as an $8 download on their Bandcamp page. It's the band's first large platter since Such Fun and their first release of any kind since the five-song EP Sweet Sister arrived in 2010. Much of the record sat almost finished for about 18 months while the group figured out what they wanted to do with it; the project's completion threatened to deplete all of Annuals' funds.
Revealing a new level of maturity, these songs are rawer in their emotional immediacy and tidier in their sonic diversity, organizing stray elements of electronica, folk and pop into potent and punchy offerings. "Omnicide" builds from breezy acoustic strums, ratcheting up with kinetic drum loops and robust distortion before exploding into a dense electro-pop groove in the vein of All Tiny Creatures. "Orbweaver" complicates outsized country balladry with ragtime piano fills that are continually twisted by effects and odd electronic flourishes. Time Stamp still overflows with ideas and moods in the way of Annuals' previous records, but — on first blush — it wields them with greater control.
"Whether it's a swan song, a comeback, or something else... Even we aren't sure," Annuals wrote in their description of the album. "There have been good, bad, hard, and harder times since our departure from Canvasback and Columbia Records in 2010. It seems we've all individually landed on our feet but for better or worse in different, separate places."
Here's hoping for the comeback.