Akron/Family & Angels of Light | Reviewnothing else lately has been more consistently "holy shit this is good." Let's get straight to the point. If Akron/Family had released a full album the quality of their half of this split, it would be my album of the year. Unfortunately, they didn't. Before hearing their contribution here, it would seem silly to describe their self-titled album from earlier this year as "promising"; it appeared to be one of those rare occasions when a band hops onto the scene as a fully-formed entity, with all first album awkwardness and inconsistency something that they managed to deal with before their first album. But NOOOO.
With their seven songs here, Akron/Family have not just refined their songwriting, but advanced it considerably. The skronky noise, for example, of 'Moment' and 'Dylan Part II' is a dramatic departure from the mellow, mildly psychedelic, idiosyncratic folk of their debut, but the two vastly different styles come together wonderfully, bringing to light new facets of the Family's songwriting. But I don't think that describing the sound of this side of the album does a good job of conveying its greatness. The best way I can put it is that it's more epiphanous (I don't CARE if that's not a word!) than anything else I've heard this year. From the delicate dropout of the ragged, countrified guitar solo in 'Moment' to the campfire choir at the end of 'Future Myth' to the introduction of the pedal steel under Ryan Vanderhoof's wavering vocals at the end of 'Oceanside', nothing else lately has been more consistently "holy shit this is good."
Poor Angels of Light. Michael Gira's primary post-Swans project (don't take that as a recommendation, a warning, or anything else that isn't merely a fact: they sound nothing like Swans, unless they sound like the late period Swans I haven't heard), on this particular escapade consisting of Gira and none other than Akron/Family, are unfortunate enough to have their selection of really good songs be juxtaposed with a selection of really incredible songs. Gira, as the label boss, probably isn't doing too much crying himself to sleep thinking of Akron/Family's greatness, but to pretend that he is has more dramatic effect, and is more fun. This year's Sing "Other People" is an easy reference point, as Angels of Light's songs here generally continue to fit into that mould of delicate, melodic, pretty numbers accompanied by Gira's drawling croon, except this time with some of Akron/Family's eccentricities and slightly weaker songs. The highlight of this side is most reminiscent of their previous effort this year, a cover of Bob Dylan's 'I Pity the Poor Immigrant' done in a fairly traditional country manner. It would be interesting to see Akron/Family as Angels of Light reign themselves in a little more as they do on this song, as it shows another side of their incredible mega super God-like talent that they're unlikely to showcase in their own material.