Review – “Eight And A Half” – Eight And A Half

It’s Grayowl Point’s third annual Throwback Week! The blog is once again looking back at older Canadian albums and connecting them to the musical present. This year, albums released in 2012 or earlier qualify to be examined for Throwback Week. See our past throwback reviews here.

reviewed by Cissy Suen ac067.jpg

Back in 2012, Dave Hamelin and Liam O’Neil of Montreal band The Stills and Justin Peroff of the Broken Social Scene, formed Eight and a Half. Their self-titled album begins with the dreamy electronic alternative sounds of “When I Was Twenty Nine” – perhaps an ode to the things that could’ve been, the musical paths that had not been tread. It’s melancholic but not pessimistic and sets the tone for the down trodden experimentation of the trio. The album features a variety of electronics and equipment that had not yet been featured in the trio’s other rock heavy projects. It’s a celebration of the various musical interests and talents of the other members – Peroff having also been a DJ and party promoter, O’Neil having enjoyed helping Metric engineer their new wave Synthetica, and Hamelin aiming for a distinctive style of singing that also complimented the unique sounds.

The record continues to the vibrating melody of single, “Scissors”. An array of synths paired with a reminiscent guitar line, the sombre lyrics intertwine hope and sadness to deliver a chilling tune of the destruction of love. The music video provides intense depictions, starring scenes of colour coordinated couples passionately kissing before arguing and violently fighting. The beat picks up on the catchy “Go Ego”, an anthem of self-respect and the second single from the album. “The Turn Around” features a dichotomous key progression true to its title. It also poses as the literal point in the album where the group leave melancholy for an embracement of serendipity.

This serendipity is gorgeous – it’s the colourful story that occurred as they ‘Took a Train to India”, a track that contains distinct foreign influences. It’s the sweet moment of hesitation as they “Wait Up” on restless nights of background synths and intricate drum patterns. It’s the cascade of keys, the multitudinous of human relationships that begin where “Two Points” meet. It’s the overwhelming feeling of “Walking into Diazepene”, a textured weaving between vocal harmonies, light drum pad beats and heavy natural toms, and contrasting sounds of woozy synths and clear keys.

We close our journey “…over the hills, over the nightmare, over the chills” – a realization and an acceptation of things learnt and things possible to be achieved. Eight and a Half achieved an unprecedented type of sound at the time with their combinations of, not only sounds, but backgrounds. It’s an exploration of possibilities and a closure of their past musical journeys. I had hoped for a second record to be released, and though it’s been four years, that hope will always be alive.

Top Tracks: “Go Ego”; “Two Points”

Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent)

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