After releasing what was their fourth studio album back in 2007, original Akron/Family member Ryan Vanderhoof quit the band for personal reasons, leaving drummer Dana Janssen, guitarist Seth Olinsky and bassist Miles Seaton behind to try and assemble the pieces that remained. Rising to the challenge, the remaining trio are soon set to release Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free (Dead Oceans); an album that, in this case, suggests less just might be more.
There is a new side to Akron/Family at work on the band's latest album...though that might be due to the fact Vanderhoof's influence is no longer present, allowing the other member's styles and personalities to flow a little more freely. In any event, the band's sound is a little more accessible this time around...one might even say, poppier. Songs like Everyone's Guilty (the album's opening track) and "The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen" come off as catchy as ever; hardly a bad thing in this case. Even more impressive, the music hasn't been simplified or dumbed down so more people understand it. Quite the contrary, these tunes are as intricate as ever. They just manage to capture a certain level of catchiness that wasn't as present on previous works.
Not surprisingly, the result is an album where bright moments are easy to come by; "River" being the best example of this. The song starts out gently enough, with guitar and quiet percussive elements assisting Seaton's vocals. Considering his lyrics ("A wordless whisper sighs and pleas, little deaths envelop thee, you and I and a flame makes three), Seaton most likely sings of sex. Beyond this though, the ending makes for something that's as good as any "little death", as horns, flutes, and vocal harmonies combine to form an ending of epic proportions. Best yet, this is but one of the many highlights on what is probably Akron/Family's tightest record to date...not to denigrate the band's previous work. While their older material showed plenty of potential, Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free will undoubtedly go down as the best record in this band's impressive catalogue. - Greg Lozoff