Silent Years' global journey stops in Pittsburgh 

There's an elegance and grace to the Silent Years' gait that might seem fussy to those less beguiled by its gilded pop-art style. The core of the Silent Years' sound is guitarist Josh Epstein's sweet, reedy tenor and folk bent. Draped in a dreamy British cut of orchestral silk and satin, it's a sound that recalls Ed Harcourt, Badly Drawn Boy and, at times, a more understated Muse. While Silent Years is never as loud or panoramic as the shoegazers get, its songs frequently build to noisy, blissed-out climaxes that interrupt, and then slowly recede into, the gentle rootsy beauty of the melodies.

The Detroit combo started in high school and reconvened after college, self-releasing the seven-song EP, Stand Still Like a Hummingbird, in early 2006. Later that year, the band followed up with a self-titled, full-length debut on No Alternative. The album was enough to score honors as Spin's Top Underground Band of 2007, but not to prevent the group from breaking up. Epstein rebuilt Silent Years from the ground up, eventually replacing everyone; as a result, the band's sophomore release, The Globe, sounds like a fresh start.

Released last week, The Globe offers bigger, louder and more involved arrangements, without sacrificing the sweetness that marked the earlier releases. Songs like album-opener "Out Into the Wild" and the ear-catching "Pay It Back" are sweeping, outsized cinematic tapestries reminiscent of the Flaming Lips. The less demonstrative numbers -- such as "On Our Way Home" and the burbling, jangly "The Sun Is Alive" -- call to mind Jeff Buckley working on Elliott Smith's Dreamworks debut, XO.

The lyrics are as ambitious as the music. Epstein was influenced thematically by Ray and Charles Eames' famous short film, Powers of Ten, which examines existence along a scale ranging from the entire universe down to a single atom. The Globe similarly contemplates the universe around us. "Black Hole" invokes the feature believed to lie at the center of our galaxy, using it as a metaphor for how we're all "trying to escape, trying to escape inevitability." The album's calliope-sounding highlight "The Axiom" swells like "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" as it weighs "the sadness that everyone hides shoulder to shoulder without a word. / This is our most common bond, but it's a hunger that you could not define."

Like the music itself, Epstein's lyrics succeed because of an earnest, earthy quality that grounds their grandeur.


The Silent Years, with Stephen Foster & The Awesomes, This Quiet Army and Steve Chab. 8 p.m. Wed., Aug. 27, Garfield Artworks. 4931 Penn Ave. $6. 412-361-2262 or www.garfieldartworks.com

click to enlarge Silent Years: On top of the world
  • Silent Years: On top of the world


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