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[Experimental Folk] Akron/Family

Spencer Patterson

Full disclosure: I’ll be in LA later this month for the singular purpose of seeing Akron/Family perform. Which, yes, means I’m something of a fanboy, though my adoration for their folky experimentation is well-balanced by my lofty expectations for its results.

The quartet mostly meets those high standards on latest offering Love Is Simple, an album that plays like the harvest of a weekend spent beside a campfire with friends, composing communally and chanting semi-spontaneously while heavily ingesting the surrounding natural environment (and likely much more). Yet despite the band’s fervor for unpredictable shifts in tempo and odd turns of phrase, the projected ambiance feels warm and inviting, to the point that even potentially spooky counsel

“Don’t be afraid, you’re already dead” comes off more comforting than unnerving.

The disc also finds Akron/Family—surprisingly, given the group’s past penchant for freewheeling originality—appropriating obvious stylistic flourishes from a horde of ’60s touchstones: the weirdo overtures of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart (“I’ve Got Some Friends,” “Of All the Things”), guitar shades of Jerry Garcia and Neil Young (standout cut “There’s So Many Colors”) and David Gilmour (“Crickets”) and the harrowing side of John Lennon’s songwriting (“Phenomena”). Derivative? Sure, but when you’re having this much fun being dead, does it even matter?

AKRON/FAMILY

Love Is Simple

*** 1/2

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