Few underground bands have created as much international buzz as Montreal-based trio (and more recently, quartet) Half Moon Run. At SXSW 2013, the band was placed on the "Top Bands To See" list, and their eye-catching performances at Glastonbury festivals created a stir amongst the indie-rock community. Extremely persistent touring has brought much light to HMR's debut studio album Dark Eyes
. The group is currently in the process of completing an 18-month international tour, opening for bands the likes of Mumford and Sons and Of Monsters and Men. And although their album came out way back in March, the U.S. release was held til July 23rd. Half Moon Run's first album displays incredible talent and a unique sound that seems to guarantee a bright future.
The first thing that jumps out on the album is the beautifully gentle voice of singer Devon Portielje as well as the fantastic arrangement of harmonies supplied by Conner Molander and Dylan Phillips. Perhaps the most impressive detail in Half Moon Run's recording and arrangements is that no single band member is limited to one duty. While Portielje holds the responsibility of lead vocals, all three members play part in the singing. In terms of instrumentation, each member features the ability to play at least two instruments depending on the requirements of a given song (Portielje often plays drums to accompany his vocals). There is certainly something to be said about a trio that can create a sound as multifaceted as Dark Eyes
. In the album's second track, "Call Me In The Afternoon", it sounds, at moments, as if there are about six people contributing to the sound: a compliment that speaks to the band's raw talent as musicians.
Contrary to touring mates Mumford and Monsters, HMR has an astoundingly dark sound. But while it is dark, there are brief moments of hopefulness, largely thanks to Portielje's angelic voice and gorgeous harmonies in a chorus filled with deep content. "Need It" perfectly exemplifies this. The chorus "If you breathe in / I'll breathe in / And slowly let go" is harmonized to sound so beautifully somber that it is simultaneously solemn and uplifting. Likewise on the album's first track, "Full Circle". Dark Eyes
surely isn't an album that will leave you feeling like a child on Christmas morning (especially in the funeral-sounding "No More Losing The War"), but the Canadians make it work in a unique way.
In terms of HMR's direction, their lack of a poppy sing-along type of track leaves doubt as to whether they will break into the ears mainstream radio consumers. However, there have been bands in the past that have found success with this type of deep, dark sound. The influence that English rock band Radiohead has had on the three Montreal natives seems too obvious to go unmentioned. Not only is Portielje's voice reminiscent of Thom Yorke's, but many lines can be drawn between the song structure and instrumentation of the two bands. The tracks "Give Up" and "21 Gun Salute" sound like they could have come right off of Hail To The Thief
. Looking back at the successes of Thom Yorke and company, any correlation found in Dark Eyes
should be considered beneficial. While Half Moon Run may have surfaced quietly in March, their road may already be paved.
is out now on Glassnote Records. Get your copy here