They say nice guys finish last, but pleasant politeness seems to have landed Historians squarely in the middle of the pack.

They say nice guys finish last, but pleasant politeness seems to have landed Historians squarely in the middle of the pack.

It's not like this band brings nothing to the table. In fact, after spending time with debut EP "New World, Old Flame" and catching portions of a couple of local performances, I think they have a lot of potential. But whether it's coursing through my headphones or emanating from The Treehouse's P.A., Historians' music can't push me past "intrigued" into "satisfied."

On the plus side, the band has a fascinating electro-organic aesthetic brewing. Imagine the Decemberists' light, literate folk-pop infused cyborg-style with Postal Service beats and synths. At times they gravitate toward one pole or the other, but most of their music incorporates a full spectrum of sounds.

That's a great canvas to work with in this post-Braff day and age. Perhaps Historians, too, would change Natalie Portman's life? The kiddies' knees should be trembling at the thought of such carefully constructed sensitive sounds.

Mine would be too if the songs weren't so frail and predictable. They've compiled a fine array of keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, live and programmed drums, saxophone and sometimes even a string section. But the songs they've chosen to apply these sounds to offer no risk, no surprise, no tension. They rise and resolve according to expectation, the indie rock equivalent of a middling romantic comedy.

Dave Buker's meek, Gibbard-inspired vocal takes aren't helping. They're a bit nasal and a little too cute, as if he'd be better suited to singing children's music.

The EP is peppered with moments of satisfaction, like the string breakdown that leads into the dense climax of "New World" and the banjo-backed guitar solo on closing number "Old Flame." Historians are actually quite masterful with the minute details of arrangement.

But without the strong foundation of compelling songwriting, it all adds up to elaborate paper mache - pretty, yes, but not durable enough to withstand the scrutiny of a crowded bar or a well-stocked iPod.

Fortunately, if they're good Historians, they'll learn from past mistakes and build from the bottom up next time.