For a band with a name like Akron/Family, it should probably come as no surprise that their new album, Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free, is filled with themes of togetherness. From beginning to end, words like “we,” “us,” “they,” them” abound. The first word of the first song is “everyone.” The last word of the last song is “ours.”
Together, Akron/Family blend aesthetics that often seem unlikely unions. At their most proper, Akron/Family are a subtle folk band with pop tendencies. At their most uninhibited, Akron/Family are a jammy, experimental band with folk tendencies.
Where to begin with a band that covers so much territory? “Creatures” and “Many Ghosts” have the kind of groovy, electronic beats reminiscent of instrumental hip-hop. “MBF” is guitar shredding rock that eventually melts into pure noise. “The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen” is lightly played acoustic guitar over ambient noise that recalls the band’s first, self-titled album. “Gravelly Mountains of the Moon” starts out as airy folk before turning into a jam before turning into a dance – kind of like the pacing of “Ed Is A Portal,” from Love Is Simple, in reverse.
What their exploration lacks in emotional punch, their simplicity makes up for in kind. The closing track, “Last Year” is just a piano and the repeated lines, “Last year was a hard year / for such a long time / this year’s gonna be ours.” It’s the shortest song on the album and yet one of its most powerful. “River,” the album’s single, is a sweet, sexy pop song – well, as pop as Akron/Family get – with a delicate balance of shaker, guitar and some drumming.
But what makes Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free isn’t one particular aesthetic or another, it’s their combination. It’s Akron/Family’s uncanny knack for seamlessly jumping from one thing to the next, their ability to cover music in such an unbridled fashion. Should anyone say they lack direction, the album title guides the way.