Review – “Codeine Dreams” – David Backshell

reviewed by Eleni Armenakis

It’s been three years since Grayowl Point covered David Backshell’s debut EP, and in that time he’s followed up with another and is now releasing his first full-length debut, Codeine Dreams.

Backshell’s ability to weave in familiar elements is still strong with his latest, songs taking turns sounding like darker, more solemn versions of the folk and pop sounds that have marked the last decade. But Backshell’s ability to fill those sounds out, like he does on opener “Everyday is Yesterday,” into ominous choruses and echoing, bleak verses is still as strong—if not stronger.

Maybe Backshell’s history plays a part in his ability to seamlessly merge together multitudes. A Montreal transplant by birth—who grew up in the UK before making Toronto home—he must know a thing or two about synthesizing and adapting to the world around him, even as those familiar sounds morph and change to fit the world Backshell builds with every song.

As if to prove the point, he moves from a Coeur de Pirate opener to a folksy, broken Red Hot Chili Peppers for “Pins and Needles,” a song title shared with another track from a Toronto band (among others).

Joined by Chantal Sylvestre on vocals, songs like “A Deal Gone Wrong” come into their own, shifting away from musical echoes to new expressions as the two go back and forth on the lament. “Reaver” again picks up Backshell’s fixation on yesterday—his preoccupation with looking back driving the melancholia of the second half.

The soaring, chorus-like repetition of the opening track returns for the hymn-like, and hypnotic, “Conduit” as Sylvestre’s voice reaches for stunning heights. The aptly named “Halloween” marks the peak of Backshell’s haunting turn as “Dog Days of Summer” leads the listener into fall.

For followers of Backshell, Codeine Dreams offers both another foray into the unique spins that drew them in, as well as a welcome exploration of Backshell moving comfortably into his own creations.

Top Tracks: “Everyday is Yesterday”; “Conduit”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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