Under Review

Akron/Family

S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (Dead Oceans)

Review By Kamil Krawczyk


So It Goes
Imagine placing Animal Collective and Neutral Milk Hotel in a blender, spamming the pulse button, and adding hints of the Flaming Lips every once in a while for extra flavour. The sound emitted by this concoction would sum up Akron/Family’s newest album, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT, quite well. Noise and more noise—albeit well applied—is the staple of this nearly hour long trip into foreign territory. But there’s a deeper side to it, a calmer side, and that is why Journey is such a fantastic album—it evokes so many emotions, tugs at so many imaginative desires, and simply ushers in a sense of peace and tranquility, despite being so intricate and often rambunctious.

“Silly Bears” brings the adventure to a start with a combination of dirty synthesizer and heavily modulated guitars, all entwined with a droning percussion rhythm. Seth Olinsky, singing in his very best Avey Tare voice, tugs along the wall of sound. Then, the mood changes, and the happy-go-lucky tone of the opener quickly transforms into a smooth, slowly sung ballad that brings both peace and serenity. And that’s just what makes Journey so damn good—the sheer variety.

“So It Goes,” the album’s strongest track, is a solid rock song with haunting vocals and a great instrumental performance by both Dana Janssen and Miles Seaton. This effect is recreated well on the very next track, “Another Sky” (reminiscent of Paul Simon’s solo work) with easily one of the catchiest melodies of 2011 thus far.

The second half of the album further exemplifies the band’s talent at crafting beautiful psychedelic melodies. The last two songs on the album flow smoothly and sweetly, with serene vocal harmonies and subtle string work, ending with a crescendo of synthesizers and drum rolls. The simplicity of the excellent “Creator” closes the album so acutely it’s almost uncanny.

Though not severe enough to hamper this amazing record, the album does carry one fault: The production is hit or miss. For some songs, it’s perfectly adjusted to accompany Olinsky’s voice with the rest of the band; on other tracks, the man’s poor voice is drowned out by all the noise and commotion, leaving the songs both empty and overpowering.

Akron/Family have crafted a sensual experience by creating a serene, trippy audio landscape adorned with creativity and spark. This is the perfect relaxation album, an album to enjoy with a cup of coffee before heading out into the bustling world. It’ll help slow down time and rouse the mind. It may be derivative here and there, clearly inspired by musicians of our time, but it stands its ground well. Journey is a great start for the already-immense 2011 year.