Eight and a half not afraid of going pop

By Chris Yee
[senior culture writer]

If there’s anything you should know about Toronto band Eight and a Half’s label, Arts and Crafts, it’s the love its roster has of collaboration.

Chalk it up to one Broken Social Scene. It seems that a lot of bands on Arts and Crafts have some connection to the Torontonian supergroup; in fact, the label was started to promote Broken Social Scene’s sophomore album, You Forgot It in People.

Eight and a Half is no exception. The band consists of veteran Broken Social Scene drummer Justin Peroff, Dave Hamelin and Liam O’Neil of the recently disbanded The Stills, keyboardist and singer, respectively.

This is Peroff’s first musical project outside of Broken Social Scene, for whom he had been drumming ten years. Eight and a Half had been simmering as a side project for Peroff since 2009, but it was only after Peroff, Hamelin and O’Neil found themselves back in Toronto that Eight and a Half started working toward their self-titled debut, Eight and a Half, which dropped April 10.

At first glance, Eight and a Half’s debut is a dead-ringer for post-In Rainbows Radiohead. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Arts and Craft’s press release for Eight and a Half quotes Now Toronto’s review of Eight and a Half’s debut show in February – “Eight and a Half sound like what Radiohead could be doing, if only they weren’t so terrified to write a pop song.” Now Toronto got it half right – the throb and pulse of such songs as “Scissors” and “Go Ego” is every bit as tuneful as anything the Oxfordshire-born band has released presently, their feel sparse at times, yet surprisingly inviting.

Something of The Stills’s and Broken Social Scene’s sensibilities – romantic, sometimes sentimental, sometimes dream-like – can be found in the rest of the album, starting with “Took a Train to India” and climaxing with “Walked into Diazapene,” the sedated, boring haze of “Oh, My Head” the only real misstep. Fortunately, Eight and a Half closes quickly, with “My Forevers” evoking the pastoral ambience of Eno’s Another Green World – a delightful coda to a generally decent album.

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