Album Review: The Silent Years – Let Go [EP]

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Even though it’s been less than a year since their last album, The Silent Years aren’t staying quiet. In order to hold their fans over until their third full-length record is complete, they’ve released Let Go. While the results of this EP are pretty good and yield some interesting sounds, the tail end of the record drags the rest of it down.

Let Go was recorded over the span of one week in several locations around their hometown of Detroit.  Therefore, it can make the mini-album’s missteps understandable. But even with this knowledge, the problems are still there. Luckily, they don’t show up for a while. The first two-thirds of the album offer some music that will definitely create some new fans as well as get older fans excited for what’s to come.

The EP kicks off with “Taking Drugs At The Amusement Park.” Ryan Clancey’s steady drum roll introduces the song while Josh Epstein’s jangling, high-pitched guitar play in the background. Epstein soon throws his vocals into the mix as a stuttering guitar plays in between the verses.  His singing style sounds like Jack White if he had lived during the psychedelic era. In fact, the whole song has the feel of a traditional Irish tune but it’s also pretty spacey at times. This juxtaposition works brilliantly at combining the classic with the postmodern.

“Vampires Bite The Hands Feed Them” has an ominous opening of a seemingly out-of-tune guitar backed by very distorted vocals. Somehow, when you hear the intro, you’ll feel that the title fits perfectly with it. Once the rest of the band kicks in though, the track moves in a very different direction. Brass instruments begin popping up everywhere in the verses adding another layer to the already thick music. The chorus creates a vocal harmony against aggressive guitar playing making it sound like a Beach Boys song from hell.

“Forest Fire” is where the EP really picks up. A catchy keyboard arrangement starts the track, creating a very familiar sound that took a minute for me to place. It turns out that the keyboard sounds like a mobile found above a baby’s cradle. This is one of the band’s best ideas on the record and really gives the tune an interesting twist. The switch from a mobile to an organ fits well with the perceived theme of losing childhood innocence.

Next up is “Madame Shocking,” another standout track. A solid string section works well with the upbeat guitar and chiming piano found on this song. Random whistles and other noises float through the background creating a pleasant composition that is reminiscent of Ra Ra Riot; however, a dark undertow can be found in the lyrics and vocals. This helps to balance the lighter instrumental aspects. The only complaint about this number is that it ends too suddenly making it feel somewhat incomplete.

“Madame Shocking” is where Let Go should have ended. If it had, it would have received a four-star rating from me. Unfortunately, the two final tracks bring the EP down a couple of notches. “TV>BJ” has the problem of being too random.  While many of the other tracks have random aspects, there’s still a support system of guitar, bass, and drums. That support system falls away in the chorus. The frantic drumming found during it has no clear rhythm and doesn’t provide a foundation for the other instruments. It also just isn’t as interesting as the previous numbers and feels like filler. The rapid speed up at the end of the song feels forced, almost like the band knows the song isn’t great and they want to make it weirder to improve it.

“Claw Marks” contains a good idea but has poor execution. From the moment it starts, a sense of foreboding infects the entire track. A light guitar can barely break through the dark percussion until it’s left alone with the vocals.  It’s soon buried again under distortion and chaotic drumming. While this works at first, it soon creates a plodding feel that’s exasperated by the six and a half minute length of the song. By the time the song moves on to other ideas, the interest has already faded away. “Claw Marks” ultimately sums up the problem with Let Go.

There are many great ideas and experiments to be found on this record. When the band succeeds in implementing them, the EP excels. When the band fails though, the results are much less impressive. Then again, this is only a stepping stone for The Silent Years. Hopefully, the errors here will be ironed out in time for their third full-length release.

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Let Go Album Review: The Silent Years   Let Go [EP]