Some artists take multiple years between their album releases, keeping their catalogue trim. And then there’s Akrasia. Their new record, Perfect Is the Enemy, which dropped on August 17th, is the 16th release from the band since their first incarnation in the early 2000’s. “There’s never peace,” says lead singer/producer William Danylo, of this prolific output. “Sometimes it feels like a compulsion or an addiction.”
Akrasia has been described elsewhere as “slacker rock legends” and “a rock & roll band that jams like a jam band, but likes to take showers.” These taglines seem appropriate. Several factors contribute to their old-school rock vibe: assertive, melodic electric guitar that often runs several layers deep; drums that expertly navigate the fine line between commanding and intricate; periodic, timely appearances of wavering keys and pleasant acoustic guitar strums; and Danylo’s distinctive, growling vocals. “My production style largely consists of giving folks the opportunity to do whatever they feel like doing, and we see where it goes. I eventually try to make it all make cohesive sense. I try to facilitate a party,” Danylo says. “I don’t like to tell anyone how or what to play, because 100% of the time, they are better at it than me, and will often do something amazing I never could have conceived of.”
That jamming, collaborative, free-flowing sensibility is apparent on Perfect Is the Enemy. But the songs still have cohesive structure and impressive polish. The energy ranges from soft and pretty to driving and in-your-face (with several stops in between), but these transitions are handled with the kind of smoothness and intuition that comes with a decade-plus of experience. You’ll find an enjoyable ride, both within each track and between them.
Something else that experience brings: fearlessness. With song titles such as “West of a White House,” “Super Duper Happy One,” and “Halftime Snacks,” their subject matter doesn’t shy away from the strange, silly, and (occasionally) political. This quirkiness is refreshing, and charming overall. Even when the lyrics threw me for a serious loop (like this line from “Better Rug:” “Critter smug/Yeah, that’s a nice dam/Witty Doug/Ain’t tryin’ to be funny/Sweater pug/Aww, look at that puppy”), their wordplay, rhythm, or musical surroundings were compelling enough to keep me immersed. You won’t always know exactly what he’s saying, but you’ll probably like its delivery anyway. And the cleverness with which these off-the-wall topics are addressed becomes more apparent with each revisit.
“Exile by the Stones and YHF by Wilco are two of my touchstones, production-wise, so it’s a grower,” Danylo says. “I like recordings with some dirt…albums you can listen to ten times and hear new parts and sounds you hadn’t noticed before.” As someone who’s listened to the album close to ten times, I’d say he succeeded.
For this record, Akrasia consists of Danylo on lead vocals, guitar, and percussion; John Dubosky on drums and vocals; David “Nemo” Pfister (who wrote the closer, “My Oh My”) on bass, Korg keys, and guitar; Brian Volinic on guitar; “Hurricane” James Emanuel on guitar, keys, and vocals; Jordan Auth on guitar and bass; Chris Mikan on guitar; Erika May on vocals and guitar; Amber Buric on silver horn; and Blaise Castelli on guitar.
“I don’t have the secret for songwriting,” continues Danylo, who wrote or cowrote almost all of the tracks. “But if I did, I bet it would involve stripping away the mental filters that can paralyze you with doubt. Keep it light, always write things down…nothing is true; everything is permitted.” He goes on, “None of the inspiration [for these songs] is ‘this girl I dated for a couple months that pissed me off,’ and goddamn, this was way more fun.”
From the pretty acoustic guitar introduction of “Before the Flood” (meant to serve as a “spiritual bridge” from the band’s last album, 2016’s Bounce) to the lilting, uplifting contemplation of the closer, “My Oh My,” Perfect Is the Enemy has plenty to like. There’s a keen sense of balance between harder-hitting, more aggressive tracks and calmer, happier fare. Akrasia’s jamming sensibilities can be found throughout, but they’re infused in turn with driving energy (like in “West of a White House” and “Time Favors the Small”), self-aware silliness (“Better Rug” and “Firetruck”), and other surprising influences, like folk and 90’s rock (“Super Duper Happy One” and “Joysucker.”) But the horn-laden “Jose Canseco” is my personal favorite. Its electric guitar lines recall Santana, while cymbal-heavy percussion gives it a captivating pulse. Minor-chord heavy acoustic guitar strums are the final element of its undeniably Latin-inspired sound. It’s sprinkled with tongue-in-cheek references too, such as the line “more juice than a mango.” It’s fantastic.
“I like to play at writing and recording the way we used to play backyard sports and build clubhouses…each new song, each new recording, each new album is its own game.” says Danylo. “[This record] was smoother than any project I’ve ever been involved in. It was also the most insane, rollercoaster, multipolar, cluster nightmare, but goddammit, it’s some of the best songs I’ve ever been a part of,” reflects Danylo. “And it sounds awesome on the bus.”
And as for that album title? “‘Perfect Is the Enemy’ was the session mantra and a core Akrasia tenant. Something 1% real is better than an unrealized idea…chasing the dragon of the Better can stagnate you and suck the joy.”
It’s safe to say, Perfect Is the Enemy infuses joy, instead of draining it. Take a listen and find out for yourself; it’s available for streaming and download on the band’s Bandcamp page. Akrasia doesn’t play out very often, so make sure you keep up with them on Facebook as well.
Bill Danylo of Akrasia