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The Old Ceremony – Our One Mistake

North Carolina’s The Old Ceremony consists of songwriter Django Haskins with a “collapsible-expandable” orchestra of collaborators. Their second album, Our One Mistake, plays like a combination of many different reference points: Ben Folds, The Black Heart Procession, Coldplay, and Nick Cave.

The piano-driven sound leads to an interesting cross between pop songwriting and a darker, noir-ish feel. Sometimes it works, but most often Our One Mistake falls flat.


The album gets off to an auspicious start with the ballad “Talk Straight.” Behind a sparse piano figure and mournful violin, Haskins paper-thin voice struggles to be heard. Not such a bad thing when it’s unleashing lines like “If you cut me I will bleed” and “Talk straight/so I can relate/don’t insinuate.” Haskins predominantly sings about love lost on this album, but doesn’t seem comfortable moving outside of tired expressions throughout.

“Poison Pen” sounds like the more pop-friendly child of Tom Waits and The Black Heart Procession. It’s a much better song than the waiting-for-radio opener, including a captivating narrative and Eastern European-influenced waltz tempo that actually uses the full capabilities of the “orchestra”.

After that brief step up, the band crashes with the cloying “Papers In Order,” which could be a song that Ben Folds left on the studio floor. It’s pilfering of the melody from Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just A Bill,” plus the inexplicable five-minute running time makes this one skippable.

“The Old Ceremony” kicks into the most rock-oriented song on the record. The band adds a shouted chorus to Haskins’s buried and generally indecipherable lyrics. One of the stronger songs here.

That exciting proposition ends with Our One Mistake, in which the vocal melody exactly mirrors the piano melody and proceeds to do just that for four straight minutes. It’s slow and plodding and the fluid chorus never quite achieves the anthemic explosion it aspires to in the end.

From the indie equivalent of the bar singer at the Ramada, “Reservations,” to the return to Ben Folds territory of Radio Religion and it’s Sublime-like, beach bum chorus, there’s not much to recommend over the second half.

Our One Mistake offers a few enjoyable songs, but most of this album is slow, plodding, and lacking anything really tangible to grasp either melodically or lyrically. When your influences are this obvious and noteworthy, it makes it very difficult to stand out. And this one doesn’t.


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