Buying new music in the year 2006 is a confusing endeavor. The internet is a bottomless vessel for advertisement, and we are constantly bombarded with banners and pop-up windows that tell us what to buy and what to like.

Mike Hulsebus
The glare is all a part of the allure. Just you wait.

Though annoying, this type of marketing is not what makes cyberspace such an effective promotional tool; it is the customized pages on sites like Amazon and iTunes which utilize individual consumer data that are so precise in their targeting for taste.

In the last few years, the music industry has used this technology to market bands to millions of unsuspecting consumers, finding that a majority of Internet shoppers prefer niche genres like “indie-rock” or “hip-hop” to mainstream pop.

The Silent Years are clearly a product of this shift towards a more consumer-specific industry. A lovingly hand-crafted diorama scene of animals and trees adorns the cover of their eponymous debut, they reference Wilco and Elliot Smith as influences and the album was even mixed by Mark Saunders (The Cure, The Sugarcubes, David Byrne), but it is all a clever disguise for music that is standard FM radio pop.

The album opens with “No Secrets”, its most complete and memorable track. A combination of overdriven guitars and precise drumming create a foundation from which lead singer Joshua Epstein can launch into his vocal theatrics. The song is by-the-numbers VH1 pop-rock, and it works.

The rest of the album falters because the band seems ashamed of its mainstream tendencies. Minimalist electronic bleeps and bursts of guitar feedback are awkwardly placed in nearly all of the songs, making for an inoffensive attempt at deconstructed pop music. Even the electric guitar freak-outs seem forced and carefully calculated.

The Silent Years is the sound of a band that is pushing itself into territory where it does not belong. These guys should leave the electronic experimentation to bands that are fully committed to it, like Wilco or Deerhoof, and start playing their songs honestly without an “indie” disguise.

As little as two years ago, the image of this band would have been markedly different: The album cover would have been a dark and spacey Anton Corbjin knockoff with the four musicians staring introspectively at the sky, their website would have mentioned Radiohead and Jeff Buckley as major influences, and the songs would have been produced with heavy layers of vocal reverb and guitar delay. But alas, we are living in the days of “indie rock” so we must settle for an image of charming naivete and obligatory musical experimentalism.

The Silent Years
The Silent Years

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