Album: Love is Simple
Comments: The popular new trend in indie rock music is the movement toward collective, freak-folk music. In other, less pretentious words, the new hotness is to use multiple people, chant style vocals overtop of back-woodsy, acoustic guitar led music. If a group of monks decided to live in the words, take mushrooms and make music with guitars and keyboards, they would probably end up making freak-folk music. The latest band to be hopping on this trend is
The record has a definite tone to it, and that tone is “Be excellent to each other.” From the starting line, this album has a compassionate, friendly tone to it; when the band tells the listener to “go out and love / everyone” on the opening track, the keenly titled “Love Love Love (Everyone)” one gets the sense that the band really means it. Musically, the track is a slow, quiet pop song that is not at all in touch with the rest of the music.
For a band that is making a name for itself using a collective style of music, much of Love is Simple is based on more mainstream elements. Songs like “I’ve Got Some Friends” and “Phenomenon” would be straight up classic rock songs if not for the occasional chorus in which everyone sings, or the spastic folk breakdown in “Phenomenon.” Elsewhere, on the quiet pop ballad “Don’t be Afraid, You’re Already Dead,” which sounds more like the Beatles and Devandra Barhart, the band reinforces their “love first” mentality, claiming that it can overcome even death.
These songs are nice, but one’s opinion on the album will be made or broken on the two songs that make up the middle of the album, and serve as the band’s declaration to all things collective. The first of the two, “Lake Song/New Ceremonial Music for Moms,” starts out as a neat little folk song, the kind of thing you would head at a campfire, before melting down into a chanting drum circle that is either poetry or madness depending on personal preference. This hippy chant-fest turns into the slow rocker “There’s so Many Colors.” The two songs are set up so that the end of the first seamlessly combines with the beginning of the second, making it one 15 minute long artistic statement. For some, this middle section will be the best thing they’ve ever heard, but for most it will just be too much of nothing.
That being said, this album does yield one song that gets it right. While the middle of the album may fail to combine collective freak-folk with mainstream convictions, the seven-minute country bump of “Ed is a Portal” succeeds in all the right ways. The song opens with a room full of people clapping and chanting before kicking in with the danciest banjo melody I’ve ever heard. Drums follow soon after, as the entire band chants the chorus and turns the song from formless chant into bluegrass boogie. Featuring two separate breakdowns before returning to the main riff, “Ed is a Portal” is not only the best song on the album, but it’s a song that is infectious enough in its message of love that anyone, anywhere could listen to it an enjoy it.
While the overall album may leave people baffled, the good vibes theme of the album, combined with the presence of one of the best songs of the year make Love is Simple an album worth looking into for those with any interest in folk or collective music. If Akron/Family can improve upon this work in years to come, don’t be surprised to find them creating their own fad instead of working off of one.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Key Tracks: Ed is a Portal, Don't be Afraid You're Already Dead, Phenomenon
Worth the Money: Yes