Love Is Simple | ReviewThematically, Akron/Family sticks to their bearded folk, hippie, and shamanistic leanings with a life lesson to love one and all If you took Devendra Banhart, Comets on Fire, Frank Zappa, Brightblack Morning Light and, like, the Band, put them in a blender and set them to puree, you’d then have something that resembles Akron/Family and what your brain might look/feel like after listening to Akron/Family. This is a good thing, particularly if you like your folk to be of the freak variety.
Sonically, Akron/Family is ambitious and compelling. Songs range in size, depth, complexity, and familiarity… sometimes all in the same song. They can convey an easy kind of feel featuring mere acoustic strings, a trumpet, and harmony, or they can crescendo into a cacophony of energy, electronic noise, and chant-like singing. One minute they’re totally familiar, and the next everything takes off into orbit, unabashedly guiding the listener into less-traveled places. I commend them for this, because for all the accessible indie-pop going on right now, a good challenge, whether it ultimately works in the end or not, is refreshing to my own ears. I’m ready and willing to go on this experimental trip.
Thematically, Akron/Family sticks to their bearded folk, hippie, and shamanistic leanings with a life lesson to love one and all. The first and last track of Love Is Simple is essentially the same song: “Love, Love, Love (Everyone)” and “Love, Love, Love (Reprise)” with the first line of the record stating, “Every precious human being has been a precious parent to you.” What are you going to do about it? It's simple. Go out and love everyone, silly. For all the complexities our modern world incessantly throws at us (just like this band does, no less) when you hear Akron/Family sing this almost amateur lyric, it does suddenly feel that simple. From here, the record goes on as a celebratory invention for an immortal thing called love, in whatever form it chooses to manifest itself.
There’s weirdness all over this record, but all of that unexpectedly congeals and gets blasted through the band’s psychedelic prism at the middle track “There’s So Many Colors”, an eight-minute joyride through Americana on chemicals that feels like it was culled from some early Blue Cheer archive for an intense three minutes, until it breaks down into two gorgeous transitions where it ends up a familial sing-along. Whatever it is about this song, it’s freaking awesome. And after the long haul through that song, we get a nice comedown with “Crickets”, featuring summer night cricket sounds in the background. Those fuckers usually creep me out (once having an apartment infested with them), but for this song it’s quite nice… a little lullaby. “Pony O.G.” is a song that should be listened to carefully for a perfect example of how the band marries folk with electronic sampling. Each song on Love Is Simple is somehow immediately likeable, even in the face of knowing they are continuously going to steer the ship away from civilized territory.
The only song that I have generally skipped over time and again, as things get really noisy and start to hurt my head, is “Lake Song/New Ceremonial Music for Moms.” However, it should be noted that, while disruptive, the song's unruly ending is most likely the band reflecting the chaos of life while simultaneously attempting to blow it out of our heads. The attempt is appreciated, oddly enough, because once we can move on from its tumult, it seems to serve a second function by opening up our tolerance to appreciate their overall creative, avant-garde aspects, which are typically impressive in most all other cases.
The Akron/Family has an ability to cultivate artistically surreal scenes in their music, like globs of complementing and conflicting paint colors on a mural-sized canvas. You have to spend time with its brushstrokes, its layers, its textures, its flaws, its peaks, and its overall feel, both up close and from afar, to really absorb the statement. If you give it the time, you’ll be treated with a record that has real tangible moments of brilliance and other unearthed moments that will keep on revealing themselves in their own time.