S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT
Despite their hippy ethos and moments of feedback-freak-out Akron/Family seem to be steadily shifting to the fringes of the mainstream since the release of 2007’s Love Is Simple and the departure of founding member Ryan Vanderhoof. Whilst some may argue that the band have lost a certain edge in the interim, it could also be said that their recorded output is a heck of a lot more accessible. Album opener "Silly Bears" is perhaps a definite example of this, yes, it has ridiculous lyrics and a distorted stomp rhythm but at it's heart it's a nicely rounded pop tune (rest assured though, i'm not talking top 40 pop, more like a Broken Social Scene album track - the best kind). If there was one track title on this album which would stick out as a possible trademark noise-rock-freak-out it'd be "A AAA O A WAY", so it's surprising to find a miniature composition of equal parts ambient and early Fleetwood Mac. This isn't a bad thing. It also works well as an intro to one of the stand out tracks on the record, "So It Goes" with its bizarre stream of conscience lyrics and instrumental twiddling. "Another Sky" and "Light Emerges" are continuations of the sound the band have honed on the previous two albums (particularly akin to most of 2009's Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free) and both include the semi-obligatory group chanting at the end. After the sleepy "Cast A Net" the band gradually crank up the freak factor and let things fly on "Fuji I" and "Say What You Want To", both of which go a bit mental towards the end (in that quintessential AKAK way) the latter being the finest burst of craziness on the album (whilst not quite coming up to the level of previous favourites like "Gravelly Mountains of the Moon", "Ed Is a Portal" and "Of All The Things"). As usual the band have produced an album of abundant quality which also leaves you thinking that there's more to come, that they haven't yet found their artistic peak in the studio. Rounding off the album are a trio of tracks to send you off to a joyful slumber, perhaps dreaming that Akron/Family will one day put together an album worthy of their frenetic and eccentric live shows. An impossibility maybe, but a benchmark nonetheless.