Love Is Simple
or the past three years, Akron/Family has been one of the shiftiest, most prolific acts in the rock/folk underground, trading their wares as meandering shamans, cosmos-quaking art rockers, and house band for Young God Records. Along the way, the band has adopted, somewhat adorably, a cliché flaw for each of their incarnations. Their self-titled psych-folk debut was a smidge limp. Last year’s harsher Meek Warrior veered too far into the red, stumbling over free jazz and noise improv. Akron’s work as Michael Gira’s backing band for Angels of Light—up until this year’s We Are Him—was a bit passive. When co-frontman Seth Olinksy (as Best of Seth) indulged in a solo project it was—all together now—too indulgent. On their third album, Love Is Simple, Akron cozies into the space between their clay folk and acrid jams and find…classic rock?
Sort of. Love Is Simple is Akron’s most streamlined album, one that bridges their multitudes and, finally, puts forth a series of discreet songwriting ideas rather than merely splashing about in genres. The band’s communal foundation still exists—choruses are celebrating nests of voices, piled askew—but rather than fronting as a legit backwoods hippie convention the band uses their numbers as a songwriting device. The vibe on Love Is Simple is a little more Buffalo Springfield: warm, smeared youth, possibly full of shit, and maybe, almost brilliant.
The comparison works sonically as well. The contorting “There’s So Many Colors” is a slow hymn, a pop oddity, and a torn electric revival, each for three minutes. “Phenomena” juts and quivers on power chords and this lyric: “Some think Christ is white / Others think he is brown…” and then moves into a panoramic, open throated harmony: “…Some might think this isn’t the right sound.” The vaguely Eastern European horns in “Of All the Things” circle the commons and a drunk but lucent Family follows.
Unfortunately, Akron at their worst still stack song fragments like Duplos: chunky, boldly-colored blocks that advertise their divisions. “I’ve Got Some Friends,” “Lake Song / New Ceremonial Music for Moms,” and “Of All the Things” shift so radically and for such long intervals that they misplace their identity, only to frantically search for it again in the track’s waning minutes. This leads to a parade of five and six minute songs that fracture and irritate the band’s livewire vocal trysts.
That the band comes out of Love Is Simple with slight identity problems is expected—good luck dragging your buddies to see the “jammy, experimental-y, Buffalo Springfield-y, (‘Who?’) but not really”-band—but for the first time they seem purposeful, excited in the direction they’re taking rather than merely modeling some genres in the dressing room mirror. As welcoming and hearty an album as Akron/Family is likely to record, the band lives up to the latter half of its moniker: their dinner table is wide, their conversations brash, their drunken outbursts uncomfortable and loving.