The Eagles of Indie Rock
Building on swelling praise of both albums and performances, Akron/Family have released another excellent semi-concept album, Love is Simple. Multi-instrumentalists/vocalists Seth Olinsky, Miles Seaton, Dana Janssen and Ryan Vanderhoof carry the listener through a musical journey extolling the virtues of an honest connection with and appreciation of love. Love is Simple is Akron/Family’s exploration of the philosophical feelings and emotions surrounding love, eschewing the personal wooing that bogs down much romantic-themed music.
Starting literally enough, “Love, Love, Love (Everyone)” begins with an incisive bass note and chord acoustic strum, the whole group pleading, “Go out and love / love, love / everyone.” The short refrain segues effortlessly into the percussive hippie jam “Ed is a Portal” which manages to astoundingly combine the warmth and power of a drum circle, an Eastern sitar-based jam, bluegrass finger-picking and indie-content-conscious hip-hop, all before its uplifting conclusion.
On the tranquil side, “Crickets” is patient folk plucking accompanied by the namesake insects, a coloring of slide guitar and a single voice. Meanwhile, “I’ve Got Some Friends” features the ethereally merry climax, “Like a white cloud floating free / aimless I wander.”
For those who follow the band, “Don’t Be Afraid, You’re Already Dead” covers the most familiar territory. Each member sings the chorus (and the heart and soul of the album’s premise) “Love is simple,” breathing their own voice and identity into it, creating a greater unified sound through harmony.
Akron/Family cover almost too much ground to mention concisely on Love is Simple. Before the journey concludes on the reprise of the intro, there are epic tribal chants (“Of All the Things”), jazz interludes (“Pony’s O.G.”) and walls of feedback (“Lake Song/New Ceremonial Music for Moms”). The jaw-dropping “There’s So Many Colors” shifts and mutates from classroom sing-along to distorted noise to banjo-laden folk to an escalating rock chorus to a campfire acoustic outro. So good, it’s a little scary.
It all comes together so seamlessly, the concept of embracing love and not fearing it seems as easy as the band states. Rarely are things so complex so encouraging.