I haven't compiled these thoughts into a cohesive 'review' format, so consider this the rough draft.
Akron/Family is one of those bands that have burrowed and wormed their way into my subconscious as being one of my go-to staples. 2007's Love is Simple was not only one of my favorite albums of that year, it has remained so in the two intervening years since its release. Those who listen to as much music with as much categorical attention to top ten lists as I do will understand that this doesn't often happen. There are plenty of albums that could be classified as being great for the year in which they debuted, but there are always new releases, aren't there? Much of the good gets brushed to the side to make way for new music, new bands, new songs. For an album as cohesive and joyfully uninhibited as Love is Simple to cement itself in my enduring go-to catalog is a feat in and of itself.
Having said that, as the new owner of Akron/Family's latest release Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free, all of this is in rough draft form because I'm only on my second full listen through the album - so it's hardly fair to laud or criticize it before I've given it time to settle, right?
But my initial thoughts are this: Akron/Family has a knack for crafting truly cathartic albums. There's an enduring quality to be found within the blips and squalls, the extended jamming and epileptic fits of guitar riffs and the three-part harmonizing that's strangely peaceful amidst all the noise. An element that's shared amongst Meek Warrior, Love is Simple, and now Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free, is that all of these albums seem to have a center from which to spin away, a core that allows for the rest of their eclectic musical tangents to make sense. Once a musical idea has been exhausted in all manners of jamming and hippie sing-shout vocal caterwauling, there's always a shimmering moment of clarity. The last two tracks on Set 'Em Wild... are that clarity: somber, plaintive melodies containing at least year's worth of heartache and hardships, and an equal measure of hope.
It's the harmony Akron/Family effortlessly pulls out of musical tension (of their own making, admittedly - but who says you can't resolve your own conundrums?) that makes them such an enduringly joyful band to listen to. Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free is no exception, but to be honest, I'm still allowing it to take shape. Therefore, you are privy to my unfiltered thoughts. Has anyone else listened to this album? What do you think?