When original guitarist/ vocalist Ryan Vanderhoof left Akron/ Family to enter a Buddhist Dharma center in 2007, it seemed at first that he took the band's power of restraint with him. Albums like Love is Simple and 2009′s Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free careened wildly: in musical style, in tempo, in time signature, volume, etc. etc etc. With a title like S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT, one might be forgiven for thinking the band is still running wild — even if they readily admit that they don’t know what that title means.
The album's first few moments seem to support that notion. Exuberant opener “Silly Bears,” all distorted toms, sunbursts of synth and honeyed group vocalizing that’d out-glee Glee, bursts at the seams. And yet, the group stays on-track, never veering into proggy quagmires or distracting breakdowns. Which is not to say they stick to one sound. The gentle “Island” wafts like a Balearic island breeze, “Tatsuya Neon Purple Walkby” is a brief field recording, while “So It Goes” unleashes a guitar stomp not unlike My Morning Jacket. Rather than roam laterally, Akron/ Family build vertically, as “Light Emerges” exemplifies: starting with twinkling thumb piano, they pile on sound after sound, yet never lose track of the song. Instead, they surf atop a droning swell, building steadily to an ecstatic release.