April 3, 2009

Music Update: Funky Folk and Fanclub Collective

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My friends, I have done a bad thing. A super-confidential secret music source sent me the tracks from the new Akron/Family album, set to be released May 5, 2009, and I couldn’t help it — I listened. Forgive me Father, etc., etc.
Now that I have confessed, allow me to offer you some friendly advice. On May 5th, buy this album. Put in on your imagination pod. Play it over and over. You will like it (or I’ll know why). If at first you don’t succeed (in liking it, that is) try, try again.
Now bear with me here, because the album, entitled Set ’Em Wild, Set ’Em Free, definitely contains some of that quintessential Akron/Family abstract quality. “MBF” is a ridiculous song. At least the last solid minute is yelling and ambient noise. Hey, it just wouldn’t be Akron/Family if there weren’t yelling and ambient noise. Also, I’m taking votes on what MBF stands for. My guess is “mad beefy fingers.” Feel free to laugh at me if “MBF” is actually a commonly known acronym.
This technique holds through several other songs, but actually takes a new direction. Hooray for innovation. Now, I’m not an enormous yelling and noise fan, but with Akron/Family there is usually at least one beat you can tap your toes to, and in “Gravelly Mountains of the Moon” there is a full-on trombone chorus. Which degenerates into ambient noise. But it’s a really cool effect, and there’s some crazy vocals in there as well. Everything but the kitchen sink, pretty much. And when the album gets to “MBF,” the kitchen sink just hops right in. It’s one of the craziest songs I’ve ever heard.
One of the things that’s great about Akron/Family, though, is that they blend all this angry-crazy with some really interesting and unique, but surprisingly catchy, melodies. The ‘twinkly’ effects at the beginning of “Many Ghosts,” in combination with a strong beat and heavily marching vocals, catches your ear in exactly the right way. It may not be the kind of stuff you usually listen to, but you really want to listen to it all the same.
Now, since this album isn’t quite on the market yet (minor detail), I don’t want to give away too much, but I would like to point out a few of my favorite tracks — “Everyone is Guilty,” the first song, “River,” the second song and “Set ‘Em Free,” the title track. “Everyone is guilty” has some great innovative percussion and a really bumping guitar beat — it’s actually a song that makes you want to get up and dance. “River” has a great line, lyrically and melodically, that keeps on coming back — “You and I and a flame make three.” Both “River” and “Set ’Em Free,” are a big step in the melodic direction for Akron/Family and, let me be the first to say, they have risen to the challenge admirably. I could listen to these songs over and over. And I plan on doing so.
Speaking of listening to Akron/Family, did I mention that they played live at Cornell two years ago, courtesy of the one and only Fanclub Collective? I would like to take this moment to make a little 76 Trombones plug for Fanclub. Go to some Fanclub shows, people. The reasons to do so are numerous. Firstly, the Top 40 are TIRED. Listen to something else! Please! Secondly, the atmosphere is awesome, and the dancing is too, if a little heavy on the head-banging. Thirdly, the bands are almost always worth seeing, even if you don’t know it yet. When I saw Akron/Family with Fanclub, I had never heard of them, and now my iTunes lists them under the most played category. Coincidence? I think not. Fanclub genius? Why, yes.
There’s a fantastic Fanclub show planned for this Saturday at the Big Red Barn, and I fully expect to see some of your faces there. Go, or suffer my wrath. Which is to say, I may or may not throw rolled-up bits of napkin and / or breadstick at you. And who wants that? But seriously — four bands for five bucks! What more can you ask for? So, if you’re disappointed that actual music won’t be making a showing at Slope Day this year (may I suggest burying kegs on the slope?), indulge yourself in April instead, with Fanclub! Woohoo.