Dusted Reviews

Best of Seth - Sparrow Trout Heart Sprout

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Best of Seth

Album: Sparrow Trout Heart Sprout

Label: Achord

Review date: Apr. 9, 2007

Akron/Family is a hippie band. I don’t mean that as a pejorative, I mean it as a statement of musical fact. Sure, they will throw out heavy, progy riffs, pounding drums, and layers of distortion, but behind all that, in their blues/roots/Americana mix lies the influence of the Grateful Dead, amongst others. Live, this blazes through in their occasional too-long instrumental wanderings and love-y sing-alongs, but on recording, they’ve always managed to hide their hippie proclivities behind the power of the studio. It’s impossible to keep anything hidden over the course of three full CDs and 42 individual songs. And that is what Seth Olinsky, a quarter of Akron/Family and their primary singer, has given us.

It’s hard to call this a solo album, though, since the rest of the members of the band play on most of the songs, even if Olinsky is still the driving force. Recorded between Akron/Family and Meek Warrior, Best of Seth features early versions of most of the songs on Meek Warrior. Therein lies its most fascinating aspect, hearing the band’s working process. In some cases, not much is changed - “Lord Open My Heart” is a less in-tune, rougher version of “Love and Space,” and “Sparks” is the one part (the best part) of “Blessing Force,” more or less its final form minus distortion. The only song to suffer from the transition is “No Space in This Realm” – this version is much more alive, with crisp guitar plinking and ominous drones making it sound almost like an Oneida song.

Beyond the album tracks, this set is a hodgepodge of half-formed ideas, instrumental explorations, with a few genuinely strong songs mixed in with the mess. Sadly, most of them are marred by lyrics that feel like either high school diary excerpts or wide-eyed stoner poetry, full of images of talking grass, mountains on top of mountains, infinite space and rainbow trout alternating with paeans to love, tears, the need for purpose, and death. They’re the type of lyrics you get when you listen to too much Grateful Dead while eating too many mushrooms. When these turn into lumbering jams as in “It’s so Hard” with its George Harrison-esque guitar solo, the lyrics are a mere curiosity, slightly detracting from the rest of the song. When it is just Olinsky and his guitar, though, they just sound whiny, unoriginal and trite, since he insists on taking everything at a lumbering tempo. It’s almost emo at points. The album may “owe wholehardedly...Jerry Garcia for its reality,” but Olinsky is no Garcia; his voice lacks the oomph of Garcia’s, and his songwriting doesn’t have the same charm. It’s clear why many of these songs didn’t make the cut to become full Akron/Family songs. It also makes clear that the band depends on the interactions of all the members and Michael Gira’s production for their success.

By Dan Ruccia

Read More

View all articles by Dan Ruccia

Find out more about Achord

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.