February 25, 2011

how do i get there?


My flip-flopped friend out on the sandy beaches of Florida sent me a tune this week from Akron/Family‘s new album, and I put it on repeat for most of the day Wednesday. This is a big, expansive, primal celebration that has more in common with Sleigh Bells and Yeasayer than the communal freak-folk that I associate with some of their past music.

Silly Bears – Akron/Family

DOC045It’s a bright aural assault from their newest album with a Flaming-Lips-worthy title, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (out now on Dead Oceans). I find it addictively good. According to the album descriptions, “It was recorded in an abandoned train station in Detroit with the blackest white dude we all know, Chris Koltay (Liars, Women, Deerhunter, Holy Fuck, No Age).” How could it not be rad?

I don’t know the music of Akron/Family very thoroughly, but they’ve got their bright spots in my musical library for sure. I do remember being immensely impressed with I saw them at Coachella in 2008 because they had not one but two drummers. That’s enough to woo me. That new track reminds me of the crazy cacophony of “Ed Is A Portal” from their 2007 album Love Is Simple, of which I wrote one time “I’m pretty sure there are some passing Hare Krishnas involved here.”

Ed Is A Portal – Akron/Family

But sometimes they also put aside the riotous tambourine joy in favor of deeply lovely songs, like the straight-up Strawberry Fields of “Don’t Be Afraid, You’re Already Dead” (love is simple). And Akron/Family also started my 2010 with a gorgeous simple hymn that was my theme for last year in a fantastic way. This year is gonna be ours, indeed.

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January 3, 2010

Last year was a hard year, for such a long time…


…This year is gonna be ours.

Last Year – Akron/Family

[the first sunset of 2010, over Denver]

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September 4, 2008

Akron/Family: free of any New Age stink or hippie laziness

Akron/Family is not a family in the genetic sense, but they coalesce onstage into an entity that’s a little harmonic, a little psychedelic, all freak-folky like Devendra Banhart and jamming some into prog-rock territory — but also steadfastly defying any one classification. Formed in 2002 in a Brooklyn apartment and now sometimes living in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, the band is also clearly not from anywhere near Akron, Ohio. A study in contrasts, if you will.

I saw them play at Coachella with members of San Francisco’s The Dodos on-stage, and I remember being mightily impressed that they had not one but two joyful drummers. After the departure of founding member Ryan Vanderhoof (he apparently went to live in a Buddhist Dharma center in the Midwest) they’ve also rounded out their touring lineup with the band Megafaun. A family indeed — one that weaves their audience into a full-participation spectacle.

To get an idea of their ardent live show and touring philosophy, check out this feature with a show at The Independent in San Francisco:

Reviewer Dennis Cook wrote after seeing that show that “watching them leap and cavort in SF, one felt part of some beautiful cataclysm that precedes growth . . . Whether your mind agreed or not, your body will respond instinctively to their fluctuations. More than once I found my eyes had shut and my body continued gyrating, drawn ever closer to the flame they stoked onstage. Akron/Family is writing a 21st century non-denominational hymnal, free of any New Age stink or hippie laziness. What they did in San Francisco was tap into the great currents of the universe and share that energy and unfiltered beauty with us.”

Serious Lennon influences permeate the album, both from the ’60s Beatles harmonies and on into the experimentation of the following decade. On tracks like “Phenomena,” frontman Seth Olinsky’s voice is Lennonesque both in its timbre and in its raw vulnerability (reminds me of this demo), before it freaks out a little bit. Their music meanders through sunny fields, jumps around in bold zig zags, and spaces out into the new frontier — sometimes all in the same 7-minute track. As a sampling: two very different tunes from their 2007 album Love Is Simple (Young God Records):

This song is a crazy cacophonous party out on your street corner, and I’m pretty sure there are some passing Hare Krishnas involved:

Ed Is A Portal – Akron/Family

And this tune — just absolutely lovely, hazy, gauzy. Over a straight-up “Strawberry Fields” opener, it feels like when you’re a kid and you try to float underwater at the lake, looking up at the sun through the wavery green water.

Love is simple.

Don’t Be Afraid, You’re Already Dead – Akron/Family

Akron/Family plays Monolith on Sunday, Sept 14th.

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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