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Music Review: East Hundred – Passenger

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It's not wholly uncommon to see romantic relationships blossom between existing band members. What is slightly uncommon, though, is to see a band 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, wherein brothers Brooke and Will Blair (who play guitar and drums, respectively) asked Brooke's then-girlfriend Beril Guceri to sing on 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, saying in a press release, "Singing leaves you so vulnerable, but it was [his] support that made it comfortable."

David Sunderland (bass) and Susan Gager (keyboard), both close friends of the Blair family, soon joined the band to complete the 5-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.

East HundredWhat 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," which 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," which 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," which 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've 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, "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.

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