Akron/Family | by Sean Lambert

6 OUT OF 10

I placed a blossoming apple sprig that I cut from a tree in my sister’s backyard to a shelf above my computer where I sit typing this while listening to this CD, a gesture that gels with the earthly album art and overall sensitivity of Akron/Family’s sound. Sculpting surprising electronic and naturalistic soundscapes amidst delicately delivered vocals and tight instrumentation, this quartet offers more fodder for musical meditation than rock ‘n’ roll rallying. Not a party album or something to throw on the stereo with casual indifference, lest you miss the dueling harmonies and softly accentuated (sometimes confounding to define) tones, blips and sonic slurs thrown in as a kind of audio spice to a larger mix. With the inclusion of rhythmically played bric-a-brac and a bout of unrestrained caterwauling, Running Returning may still be the strongest single track on the album, providing more of a pop alertness and tempo structure than many of the other songs that too often fall prey to hushed meandering. On such tracks as Afford, Shoes and How Do I Know, the vocals ring true with distinctive phrasing and unforced timing. When they place the voice at the forefront of their sound on Lumen and Sorrow Boy, however, the gentleness turns into awkwardly off-key shots at twenty-something lullabies. Apparently, the boys in the band locked themselves in a Brooklyn warehouse to work on their music while further dedicating themselves to the task of growing beards. This rumor creates a colorful picture of the devotion and vision that went into this thoughtfully crafted composition. I use the word composition because the listener has to accept this as a concept album to be listened to in its entirety that walks the fine line separating indie-tenderness from isolated self-absorption. Akron/Family will not bowl you over with dazzling solos or boisterous ballads, they will set the mood for a spell of easy contemplation.