Love Is Simple, the second full-length from the Brooklyn-based gypsy caravan known as Akron/Family, is a spirited, transcendental expedition into layers of unconventional sound combinations, both curious and stimulating.
This post-rock deconstruction is nothing new — genre-hopping bands such as Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective fall neatly into the so-called freak-folk category with ambient, acoustic progressions and trippy psych-rock beats. Akron/Family lines right up with this approach — running the gamut from tribal, mantra-driven rhythms to tenderhearted, Beatles-esque ballads — but Love Is Simple is not gimmicky or attempting to ride the wake of those bands. Indeed, one of the many notable features of freak-folk is the motion away from one homogenous-sounding pack. As chasms continue to evolve within the genre, stronger, more distinct identities have begun to emerge. This album shows Akron/Family to be one step closer to a more realized vehicle of self-expression.
Love Is Simple, which the band claims is “both a love letter to the past and a launching pad into the future,” emits a joyfulness rarely witnessed in the indie scene today. I get the impression that if these four musicians were born a generation ago, they would still be compelled to produce such generative groupings of rhythm, sound, and theory. A bolder, edgier release than 2005’s self-titled debut, it is this quality of self-possession and self-awareness that is so apparent throughout Love Is Simple.
Opener “Love, Love, Love (Everyone)” plays like a hokey John and Yoko love-in yet projects the complex depth of feeling that runs through the album with the lyrics, “Every precious human being’s/ Been a precious parent to you/ What can be done?/ What can we do?/ Go out and love, love, love everyone.” This idealized, all-encompassing vision — one that’s explored with a heavy metaphysical spin throughout the band’s four Young God releases — is followed by “Ed Is a Portal,” evoking the frenzy of the bygone jam era, inlaid with tribal rhythms and trance-inducing drum circles. From this opening sequence, Love Is Simple sets the stage for a mystical exploration through Akron/Family’s conceptualized, musical universe.
Between the moody epic “Lake Song/New Ceremonial Music for Moms,” the ambulatory chaos of “Of All the Things” and the triumphant “Love, Love, Love (Reprise),” Love Is Simple shape-shifts at every turn, one moment airy and blithe, the next moment wailing and barking. By the album’s end, I had been pulled in, convinced of the authenticity of the experience, alternately impressed by the energy required to produce it. With Love Is Simple, Akron/Family once again delivers an album for listeners who connect most strongly with music that works on levels more sophisticated than clever songwriting and catchy hooks. Often eccentric and unpredictable, Love Is Simple is wholly listenable because it is compelling, honest, and joyful. When it comes right down to it, most things should be so simple.