CD Review of The Epochs by The Epochs
Recommended if you like
Guillemots, Menomena,
the Postal Service
Label
Rebel Group
The Epochs: The Epochs

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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T
he CD booklet is the biggest waste of album artwork paper since ZZ Top’s Recycler, which is ironic, considering how skillfully the Epochs use the sonic space they carve out for themselves on their self-titled sophomore release. The New York outfit, led by brothers Ryan and Hays Holladay, describes itself as “electronic/rock/pop,” but that’s a little like describing your most recent meal as “stuff on a plate” – technically correct, but perfectly useless all the same.

So let’s break it down: Yes, the Epochs’ music does contain traces of rock and pop, some of it electronic in nature – but it ain’t the ingredients, it’s what you do with them, and what these guys do is fairly unique. It won’t be unfamiliar territory to anyone who stuffs his ears with post-rock, but where bands like Menomena have a tendency to get a little too comfortable inside their own rectums, the Epochs’ forays into experimentalism are always grounded in a solid sense of structure and melody. You may lose its rhythm – especially during your first few listens – but there’s a heart beating in here. What seem at first like typical cold electronic scribbles and hollow webs of reverb – sounds that have become the most overused colors on the alt-rock palette since OK Computer floored its first generation of nerds a decade ago – are actually being used in service of something here. Actual songwriting, even. It’s actually sort of breathtaking in spots.

This isn’t to say it’s an easy album to get to know. Twitchy opener “Thunder & Lightning” is all tension and no release, and “Opposite Sides,” for all its swirling oceans of sound, keeps the listener at arm’s length with a steady stream of tinny harmonies. Like a lot of their peers, the Epochs are too often guilty of making music that sounds lab-crafted – it might look good in an ironic Urban Outfitters tee, but it won’t stop smirking long enough to break a sweat.

Thankfully, that isn’t the whole story. When the Epochs loosen their grip and let their songs breathe – as on the string-soaked, seesawing “Love Complete,” or the hushed, shuffling “Head in the Fire” – they reveal themselves as more than your average art-rockers. Their sonic shiftiness feels borne of restlessness, not an urge to be clever, and that makes all the difference.

This music clearly isn’t for everyone – if you’re just looking for something in 4/4 time, or a hook you can hum without people looking at you like you might be hiding a knife, then don’t even bother with The Epochs. If you’re in the mood for something a little more adventurous, however – and an album that pays dividends with repeated listens – then send a little of your disposable income this band’s way.

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