Album Review

Set 'Em Wild Set 'Em Free

Set 'Em Wild Set 'Em Free

by Akron/Family


Dead Oceans
8 / 10
2009

Reviewed by Paul Gallagher


It was difficult to tell what might happen to Akron Family in the move from Young God Records (home of Angels of Light ... ) to Dead Oceans (sister label of JagJaguwar and Secretly Canadian and sometime home of Dirty Projectors, Bowerbirds and Bishop Allen) but if you were as intrigued to know as I was, then you can rest your little head.

All is well, don't you go worrying yourself about it.

Akron Family are a band that have always toyed with the sound of their more accessible and commercially friendly counterparts like the Arts and Crafts / Broken Social Scene troupes, and the move to Dead Oceans and away from the sometimes-barbaric musical notions of Michael Gira has not pushed them into that sort of league but it has served them well.

Put against the backdrop of tie died home-made Americana flags and a stretching portrait of United States' Antarctic base that makes up the album art, Akron Family know that this album marks for them a change. It's yet another throw of the dice for a band that with every record finds themselves on the frontier. But it also harks back with nostalgia to moments and albums past.

Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free sits as a coined effort of sound what you might expect from Akron Family but it reigns in some of the mess and brings back some of the subtleties found in prior releases. The sound of flutes, strings, horns and meandering guitar explorations mark much of the album - and in an appreciable way. There are the eerily familiar cryptic lyrics appearing prominently throughout the record.

Many Ghosts is certainly one of the stand out tracks of any band released this year - it's a softly shimmering beautiful song that anyone can accept as beautiful. Many Ghosts recalls many of the great moments of their 2005 self-titled release that made many a coy listener an ardent aficionado.

The second song on the album and quasi single, River, should stand as the response to Judee Sill's wonderful Waterfall (recently covered wonderfully by Grizzly Bear's Dan Rossen...), in an uncanny perversion of the sometimes achingly over-used what's love vs love's lost paradigm. Seriously, I don't usually engineer this sort of thing but hunt out both tracks and listen to them together - you won't regret it.

There are pithy moments on this record too, don't get me wrong, but as with their previous releases Akron Family sort of NEED the odd wandering track to keep the listener just a touch off-kilter. Like a good portion of the 2006 release Meek Warrior, MBF is the example of unhinged pertinence that sits almost arrogantly amongst it's counterpart tracks just to keep you on your toes.

It's a sometimes stark release that continues the band's search for the sound within the sound. But it's not as bullied as Meek Warrior and it's not as forced as Love Is Simple - it's a balanced and entirely beautiful record that I'll be returning to throughout the months to come.




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