Annabel;Lee – The Van’s Gone EP

4 out of 5

Label: French Dance Records (?)

Produced by: Annabel;Lee (?)

This is the killer stuff, sans the emo / screamo filler.

Having already displayed expert chops on their debut album, influential early 00s rockers Annabel;Lee would have one more semi-official release before dissipating: The Van’s Gone EP. While the core sound remains true to the dual-vocal yelly, riffy template, the group drilled down more on their more interesting and angular elements for these five songs, making good on the promise of their previous release. The lyrics are hard to discern but are delivered with equal passion as before; however, just as the music has gained more balance and focus, so to does the way our singers have been applied: the sound may be more frantic, but it’s a controlled frenzy, pursuing what’s best for the song as opposed to following more predictable “rules” for how and when screamo should break out. However, despite each track standing very solidly on its own, there’s not necessarily a sense that the songs belong together, beyond appearing on the same release. That is: this almost comes across as a compilation of singles; each track feels like a new beginning. Glancing at a demo version of this EP, it seems the group decided to flip-flop the order quite a bit, so there was definitely thought put in to sequencing… or it might’ve been a scramble just to see if one way worked better than another. And since the group would apparently soon disband hereafter, it’s possible they just had enough oomph left for five solid songs, but maybe not the energy to sync them.

But who knows. The Van’s Gone EP is an excellent listen for any fans of the genre, still standing out as a notable release nearly a couple decades on, with plenty of things to compare it to since. However, while A;L’s preceding album may’ve been a bit more generic, it’s not as herky-jerk from track to track, perhaps making it a smoother listen.

All in all, a reason to own both, such as on the helpful compilation put out by Auris Apothecary and XRA Records…