Annabel and Dowsing, on first impression, may have you thinking — ‘Oh, another set in the emo-revival’ — but just one track in, from either, and I’m sure you’ll be hooked. There’s no superficial layer of glean over their music and this enhances the already warm sound of each instrument, including some downright passionate vocals surrounded by crashing drums, twinkling guitars and powerful bass-work that oddly, fits in. Both bands have this familiar spine to them but they offer enough differentiation that gives the other space to breathe, wander and roam with musical sentimentality. One thing’s certain and that’s this – these are two of the more solid bands in the genre of indie-DIY-twinkly rock.
Annabel is more atmospheric and spaced out, reminiscent of early Jimmy Eat World. Rolling drums build to a huge, rocking payoff in “Always” giving a sweet overwhelming feel to it. The guitars have a wicked Interpol vibe to them which neatly accentuate the higher-pitched background vocals in the chorus. Conversely, the punk fit in “Forever” is quite shocking and angry. Dynamic drumming mask the earnest toll behind the vocal approach here which makes the song slightly more enjoyable than the description might sound. It’s loud yet romantic and did I mention, fucking raging? They dance from a more subdued sound with quiet vocals meshing into softly galloping drums and simple keyboards on the former before employing a more dramatic kickass feel in the latter song. Great contrast.
Dowsing, as seen with last year’s I Don’t Even Care Anymore, ring the same way with a sense of longing, ambition, intensity, and a vast yet simple sound. The rhythm section is positively heavy, the drums crashing and the bass thundering on “Fistful of Hot Wheels” and reminds the listener of the potential bubbling just underneath the surface. They’re so consistently good at the indie-emo craft. Other than the improved production, there aren’t many discernible differences between these songs and the old versions they churned out. “World’s Finest Chocolate” is another great highlight courtesy of Dowsing. It serves as a great table-setter for the record’s bouts of twinkling, intricate guitar work and incredibly impressive drumming. They utilize huge, often choral-esque background vocals to great effect in songs, adding a grand feel to otherwise minimal compositions. The assorted “whoa”s and “oh”s and “ah”s adorn the atmospheric feel of the back-up vocals so well, although they’re not as present on this album as times before. They sprinkle bits of whimsical, jingle bell-laden points here and there too for good measure but it still sticks that Dowsing doesn’t want to or need to vary their sound that much to impact.
As far as gripes go, there aren’t many to be had as the four songs on tap do tend to run together with a positive trait. Seamlessly so. These bands are not quite there yet, but there’s no doubt that big things loom. This split screams how much promise lingers.