Akron/Family. It’s not new. It’s not old. It’s not really folk. It’s not really rock. It just is. Another one on my instant classics is their debut self titled album. Much like all of my favourite albums, it evolves and changes into something new and amazing every time you listen to it. It pushes the envelope of music in a passive way. It’s not in your face with a “look at me because I’m different and deserve attention” sort of way. But rather as a speck glimmering off in the distance only to spark the curiosity of those keen enough to go off looking for it (overtly poetic? I know, I try too hard).
At first listen, it’s actually hard to get into. I found myself actually cringing at some points to the scattering of non familiar sounds throughout the music. The first track “Before and Again” is an example. A 2 note 8-bit sounding blip seems not to fit. Its very easy to hear a song like this and think ?Yea… not for me. It’s hard to see past a lot of the first impressions that this album gives off (at least with my experience). How can this amount to anything? It seems so slapped together. The lyrics are even hard to understand, since the oddness (if we could just agree that that’s a word for a moment) of the music is so blinding that the lyrics are almost an afterthought. It’s hard for me to express my opinion on this album, since it’s meaning and tone are so elusive in the sense that each listening is different. I guess that’s what makes it so great.
If I can digress for a moment, I would like to mention a great NPR show out of New York called Radio Lab. Its basically a well produced show that delves into natural phenomena with a scientific and entertaining standpoint. Writing only from memory, I recall an episode on music from several seasons ago. Essentially, what sounds strange to us and almost painful to listen to, to the point where recognizing or understanding it as music is an alien concept, but through repeated exposure, we can learn to hear the music and complexity. Eventually, we can learn to like what we hear. Now I’m not saying that Akron/Family is not recognizable as music, but some aspects of it are just hard to make sense of when we hear it.
Now you’re thinking at this point “But Mike, if you apply this to anything you can pretty much train yourself to like anything you hear! How can you distinguish good from bad in this case?” I guess in the end, music appreciation is all subjective. I don’t have a good argument for that. You can either trust me when I tell you something is good or you can (as I’d prefer) make your own judgements. All I ask is that you be patient, particularly with this album.
I don’t like to do track by track analyses, because I feel like that takes away from the concept of an album. I’m not doing album reviews here, but rather recommendations. If I were to take apart an album track by track, I feel like I would be somehow contributing to the raising trend of worshipping the false idol of a single. If an album is not complete from beginning to end (for better or for worse) then its hard for me appreciate or consider it. YES LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I AM ONE OF THOSE. Call me a purist, or a snob, but the creation of a good album is a dying art.
Bellow is one of the more accessible tracks. Please use it in guiding you, but don’t let the single tracks I post here deter you in any way from experiencing the albums as wholes. I like to believe in my blissful ignorance that all albums have thought put into them.