The Silent Years | The Silent Years (No Alternative)

If this band wants to make its breakthrough splash in the indie majors, it's going to have to tighten up its batting stance.

 

silent_years_covThe Silent Years are one of those little bands with big aspirations. The band deploys big melodies, and singer Josh Epstein crows big, sustaining notes while making big, catch-all statements in his lyrics. Call it ambition, call it plucky underdog syndrome, but whatever label one applies, it's certainly encouraging to see a band so excited by the possibilities of its craft.

Still, if this band wants to make its breakthrough splash in the indie majors, it's going to have to tighten up its batting stance a little more. For a group that's billed as possessing a sharp ear for melody, bland chorus hooks such as those found on "Aisleways" and "Take the Money Out" will surely discourage would-be fans. Album opener "No Secrets" and "No More Magic" display more potential, frontloading their ear-catching riffs before Epstein's unabashedly fervent vocals swoop in.

Pushing those aforementioned rock nuggets aside, however, one discovers that this band's greatest strength might actually lie in its quieter moments. "Someone to Keep Us Warm" invokes a soothing autumnal hush with sparse acoustic picking, cathedral organ and a gentle rhythmic heartbeat. The choruses come and go in gentle crests of piano and ghostly backing vocals. It's an impressive show of restraint from a band that often seems too eager to get its message across in one clumsy blast of guitar noise.

Surprisingly, the band's version of "Devil Got My Woman," which sounds like the Delta blues wrung through a studio blender by Anglo Saxons, also stands as one of the standout tracks. Credit Epstein with effectively selling the tune's basic melody, even if the production team sees fit to bury his vocals beneath a snowstorm of electronic bleeps and drones.

This eponymous debut casts the band as a likeable but ultimately lightweight outfit. The Silent Years sound far too starry-eyed and naïve to hit the major emotional chords for which they're constantly aiming. Epstein, especially, sounds just a bit too fresh out of high school to be reaching such definitive conclusions on human behavior ("everyone needs to escape their pain," "everyone wants a portrait of themselves," etc.). Sure, he plays the earnest frontman part rather well, but the guy and his bandmates really need to add a bit more snarl and grit to their game. After all, it's tough to make a big impact if you're trying to soften the blow of each swing.

RIYL: Broken Social Scene, Phantom Planet's The Guest

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