East Hundred – Passenger (2009)

East Hundred - PassengerIt’s not wholly uncommon to see romantic relationships blossom between existing band members. What is slightly uncommon is to see a band still remain intact when a relationship ends, especially if two-fifths of the band comes from the same family.

That’s the story of Philadelphia quintet East Hundred, when brothers Brooke and Will Blair (who play guitar and drums, respectively) asked Brooke’s then-girlfriend Beril Guceri to sing for some of their songs.

Beril’s immense stage fright compounded the awkwardness of working with her boyfriend and his brother, to which she credits Brooke for helping her get through the uneasiness: “Singing leaves you so vulnerable, but it was [his] support that made it comfortable” (press release).

David Sunderland (bass) and Susan Gager (keyboard), both close friends of the Blair family, soon joined the band to complete the five-piece outfit. When Brooke and Beril broke up, the two made the hard decision to continue making music together, which only added fuel to the band’s creative fire.

What was intended to be an EP soon became East Hundred‘s first full-length album Passenger. The combination of Beril’s Nina Persson-like (The Cardigans) vocals and the band’s raw pop melodies sometimes mask the album’s genuinely emotional underpinnings, as in the opening “Slow Burning Crimes” that deals with the heartache of loving someone (“Do you really wanna know / I found it in a photograph it can’t last / All along the way home”) or in the more tumultuous “Plus Minus” that deals with the roller coaster heartache of truly loving someone (“We could split two hearts / We could thrill these hearts”).

The band starts to meander at the album’s midpoint, ironically starting at “Autopilot” that extends a series of dizzying memories a couple of minutes too long whereas “Pony” exudes the dreamy fantasy of a prom night that never happened. “Along The Way” finishes the regretful sequences of events with a blurry hangover before the long march (“Dear Blue”) toward sobriety and the first bright morning sunrise in weeks.

It isn’t until the closing “Afterlove” that we realize why we suffered through the aches, the endless denial, the disillusionment, and the bittersweet satisfaction of having loved, even if it was for a short while.

Brooke explains that “maybe we’re not the first to write that breakup album as the relationship falls apart… but that still doesn’t mean it’s easy.” Although as the album title suggests, it’s easier because we’ve all felt like we’ve been down that road before.

East Hundred

East Hundred

East Hundred

[photos via Sneak Attack Media + MySpace + EH]

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Track list:

    1. Slow Burning Crimes
    2. Plus Minus
    3. Deadpan
    4. Autopilot
    5. Pony
    6. Along The Way
    7. Dear Blue
    8. Sigh And Wave
    9. Afterlove

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