“Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free” Akron/Family album review by Peter Cho


Why you would put a slash in your band’s name is beyond me. Akron/Family. Is it implying you can call them Akron or Family? Akron and Family? Akron divided by Family?

Quibbles with name aside, I have to say that “Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free” is one of the most interesting albums of 2009. “Set ‘Em Wild” is the fourth album by Akron/Family, and is the first album since the departure of founding member Ryan Vanderhoof, who left the group to live in a Buddhist Dharma center in the Midwest. That’s one hell of a way to lose a member.

The first track, “Everyone Is Guilty,” puts the album off to a confusing start, sounding like Battles if they were freak-folk. The song runs long, and is soothing yet jarring, with a hint of shouting tossed in the song. After the first two minutes, things get serious, and you shake your head in amazement at the fact that Akron/Family consists of three members.

The musical ability of Akron/Family could be compared to Manny Pacquiao, pound for pound, they may be one of the fullest sounding musical trios I’ve ever heard. At times you get a vibe sounding a bit like Broken Social Scene, who commands a hefty 19 members.

Standout tracks include “Everyone is Guilty,” which tricks you from the start into thinking you’re listening to something completely different from what you’re actually listening to. If you’re thinking, “that makes no sense,” you now know how I feel about the track. Other songs worth listening to are “Sun Will Shine” and “Creatures,” which sees chanting mixed with electronic sounds and horns.

The end of the album heads into a mellower territory, straying away from the lively introduction, and tends to sound a lot like Fleet Foxes. The entire album manages to sound much more like a playlist than an album, as if the band got together and said, “let’s just make good music, forget what we’re supposed to sound like.” This may just be a luxury of the way their band is arranged, with everyone singing and playing multiple instruments.

Overall, I think “Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free” is continuing a trend of solid spring album releases, and one can hope that this will never end.