Akron/Family | Review
prefixmag.com | Josiah Hughes
In a perfect combination of inspired production, innovative instrumentation and transcendent songwriting, Akron/Family is a richly layered and flowing album that is as emotional as it is challenging.rating: 4.0 The recent popularity of freaked-out psych-folk has brought new meaning to the concept of the pop album. Whether it is the stripped-down meanderings of Devendra Banhart or the mixed-up gospel of Br. Danielson, the idea of the pop album has been transformed by fearless innovation in song writing, production and genre. If anyone understands this, itâ€™s Young God's latest signees, Akron/Family. By combining sincere songwriting with a keen understanding of layering sound with varied production styles, Akron/Family, a four-piece from Brooklyn, has already transcended category with its eponymous debut full-length. Similar to Sufjan Stevensâ€™s work, Akron/Family is characterized by sincere folk songs textured with instrumentation and connected by avant-garde sound passages. The bandâ€™s style recalls weird-pop acts like Animal Collective and Deerhoof, but where those artists explore the extremities of noise-pop, Akron/Family works with subtler experimentation. Using conventional instruments alongside unconventional objects, Akron/Family spends as much time in catchy melodies as it does in territories of noise. Opener "Before and Again" begins as a lo-fi pop song with gentle acoustic guitar and sweet falsetto vocals. As the song continues, field recordings, computer blips and violins add texture. As it nears the four-minute mark, the song unexpectedly shifts tempo, entering into a percussive and swirling 3/4 jam. This breakdown sets up "Suchness," the murky second track that contains more shifts than its predecessor. "Part of Corey" begins with piercing noise a la Wolf Eyes that evolves into a calming, oceanic hum, which in turn lays a foundation for the lyrics: "I knew if I was drowning/ I would be saved." "Italy" is a sprawling, laid-back, eight-minute ballad that is kept in time by the squeaking of a wooden chair and made complete by the interplay of electric guitars and bass. And the albumâ€™s variation continues -- a rhythmic and pounding banjo romp, two-and-a-half minutes of field noise, synths. Closer "Franny" shows the group at its most vulnerable with the line: "Please, Lord, give me strength/ To be nobody." On the bandâ€™s first widely distributed release, Akron/Family has accomplished what most musicians fail to do in an entire career. In a perfect combination of inspired production, innovative instrumentation and transcendent songwriting, Akron/Family is a richly layered and flowing album that is as emotional as it is challenging.