Akron/Family | CD Review

Hofstra Univiversity Chronicle | Jesse Cataldo

a meditative discourse on fine songwriting

Akron/Family is the kind of record that demands your attention, but not in the way you'd expect. It's so quiet, so unassuming, that you can quite possibly miss the entire thing if you're not listening. For fourteen songs it mumbles along, occasionally bursting into a quick frenzy of noise, before rushing back into its subdued state of quiet. The family, as it's easier to call them, has been lumped into two musical movements, the lo-fi and the freak-folk, both of which whom their association isn't totally fair. The latter comes from their affiliation with Young God, the label responsible for releasing this self-titled debut, which also stands as a bulwark in the burgeoning sub-genre. Unlike Devendra Banhart or Joanna Newsom, Akron/Family is not as self-effacingly weird as it is a meditative discourse on fine songwriting. It's not lo-fi either, even though the quality may be comparative in some cases, the instrumental range is far too broad and diverse. Akron/Family is easily capable of slipping far into the background if you're not giving it your full attention. This may be a commitment, but it's worth it in this case. From the sweeping synth strings of "Sorrow Boy" to the moody ambience of "Ak AK Was the Bat They Sailed in on" to the screeching opening of "Lumen" Akron/Family covers a lot of ground. Throughout everything it does, it manages to maintain a continuing sense of dreariness. The plaintive strum of "Italy" is accompanied by a constant background creaking; like the sound of an old house, it's these little touches that make the album feel alive. "Lumen" creates a creepy atmosphere through its swirling violin backing, informing us that the house which has become our setting is haunted. There are long periods of almost white noise, but they fit neatly into the tableau. Those who can't stand three minutes of near-silence won't have made it this far anyway. So if both classifications of the band are incorrect, what is Akron/Family? Besides being one of the best albums of what has been a sad, slow year for music, Akron/Family is a lot of things that other albums can't claim to be. It's creative, it's refreshing, it's entirely enjoyable from start to finish. In the end, it's beyond comparison, which might be the best thing you can say about an album.