“Electro-pop” sounds too superficial, too fleeting and cheap to describe the Epochs' infinitely danceable, oh-so-catchy electro-pop debut. Because although there are missteps, the expansive emotional range, sophisticated songwriting, and sonic experimentation on the Brooklyn quartet's self-titled, self-produced, and self-recorded album ensure that most songs are worth more than just ninety-nine cents apiece.
Brothers Ryan and Hays Holladay released Ten Billion Light Years of Solitude
in 2003 before adding bassist Kevin Smith and drummer Kotchy a year later to form the Epochs. Drums (via man and machine) and vocals (via Holladay and Holladay) provide the band's foundation, but keyboards, samples, and guitar create the texture. Disco and funk steep some tracks and lo-fi indie rock infuses others, and it all begins with aggressive opener "Thunder and Lightning." The song casts down classic-rock bravado, brutal drum rolls, and spastic electronics a la Battles onto the banging piano and passionate vocals below.
Skies clear as single "Opposite Sides" and single-in-waiting "Love Complete" skip by on upbeat dance tempos with falsetto and atmospheric, retro-smooth strings. Later, the orchestral instruments are almost tear-jerking as simple supplements to "Head in the Fire," a mournful, alt-folk breath of country air on the urban, heavily layered album.
"Picture of the Sun" is the album's first major weak spot. The acoustic guitar-laden, so-happy-it-hurts, pop-rock gobstopper dives directly into MTV pretty-boy pop rock. "Mister Frog" shows more restraint. As it reaches the two-minute mark, the sexy, hushed vocals and moody guitar subside, and the Holladay brothers drop a stellar chorus of pop perfection and lovesick desperation ("You can't stop lovin', You can't stop lovin' me now!")—then never repeat the hook.
Few among the closing songs compare to those that came earlier, but there are enough golden singles on The Epochs to make it valuable. There's nothing cheap about a debut that, from track to track, makes you want to dance in a rainstorm, roller-skate under a disco ball, serenade your hard-hearted lover, take a trip to the country, and then just listen in silence.