The Epochs - The Epochs
Record Label: Rebel Group
Release Date: February 5, 2008
My first impression of The Epochs (pronounced “ee-poks”) was not a good one. The album art, the font the band’s name was written in, and the lack of any liner notes had my “indie snob” sensors blaring as I removed the CD from the case (well, the sleeve and then the case—no band this small needs a sleeve for their album, said my indie snob sensors!). I popped in the album and let the first track slap me in the face. What I heard was something that while it would appeal to the hippest of the hipsters would also appease normal listeners with, well, tunefully eclectic and enjoyable pop music.
This self-titled album kicks off with “Thunder and Lightning,” a true example of the whimper-and-bang approach if ever there was one. It would probably be closer to bang-and-whimper, since the song begins with a frantic percussive shuffle accented beautifully with guitar flourishes, all carrying a strong vocal melody that conveys the fury of these opening notes. Shortly thereafter, the bang subsides to a whimper, with gentle vocals and subdued instrumentation. The song continues like this, adding strings and electronic garnishes that make the track a real winner as it builds climatically and ends definitively, making for a solid pop song. The second song, “Opposite Sides,” relies on tasteful electronics and beautiful vocals reminiscent of Adam Levine’s (Maroon 5) to carry it as it builds and crescendos before dropping off into silence.
The rest of the album continues in similar fashion. Piano-driven “Love Complete” has a chorus straight out of a disco song, but subtle acoustic guitar accents and excellent drumming from percussionist Kotchy (that’s his name, I swear!) prevent the song from falling into pop monotony. The brothers Holladay, who sadly do not list which songs each brother sings lead in (see why liner notes are important?), are to be commended for their vocals. Both have soulful and powerful voices that are instantly likable. Without such singing abilities, songs like “Love Complete” would feel stale and overdone. It is with effervescence and energy that the talented brothers savor sensuously every lyric sung.
Songs like “Picture of the Sun” and “Mouths To Feed” find the Epochs making good use of both drum kit and electronics. The effects and beats used are not as overwrought as those found in some of the more mainstream bands; they play nicely off the drums and create a subtle, relaxing groove rather than a frenetic, breakneck furor. This is to the benefit of the songs here, for they sound organic and natural and stand out easily in the artificiality of today’s pop.
“Stand Up And Be Counted” is the most straightforward pop song on the album, and it is brilliant. The way the vocals and the simple groove of the instruments play into one another is masterful. The next track, “Tug Of War,” finds more Adam Levine-sounding vocals and some surprisingly unsubtle arrangements. The entry of the distorted guitars is perhaps the most blatant shift in any song on the album, but it is not at all unwelcome. The way this band can shift so smoothly from theme to theme within songs is a marvel that keeps listeners on their toes listen after listen. The smooth and soulful acoustics shift effortlessly into a full-on moment of rock before slipping back to that soulful groove as if the distorted guitars had never been there at all.
The final two tracks end the album in style. “Right On” is straightforward as well, but its groovy intro and the arrangements within are tasteful and tuneful. The build from clean guitar to distorted electric guitar and vocals is well-done, and the eerie feeling of the breathily-repeated “right on”s dancing about whilst piano and guitar flourish below make this song a winner. The buildup into a controlled fury at the end of the song is also promising, as it shows the band flirting with a more bombastic sound. This sound, in fact, would be even more effective if expanded into its own full song and given the same treatment as other tunes such as “Stand Up and Be Counted,” for the heavy pop styling would no doubt benefit from the garnishing provided by the band’s knack for subtle electronics. Album closer “Giving Tree” is another excellent example of Kotchy’s drumming, and features more electronic garnishes that fill out the sound and make this ultimately more interesting. Guitars echo in the production, and the Epochs end on a very good note with a powerful, full sound towards the end of the track.
This album is excellent in many ways. The pop sensibilities possessed by the Epochs far surpass those of any more mainstream bands. This album is tinged with 60’s and 70’s rock and soul, and that older sound is integrated seamlessly into the modern electro-pop this band purveys. Though lyrically nothing special (from what I could hear; no liner notes means lyrics are what I can decipher of them), this album is certain to win the Epochs many fans, and the fresh sound this band has harnessed is one that will surely catch on for listeners. With this eponymous effort, the Epochs go a long way in proving that eclectic indie pop isn’t just for indie hipsters anymore.