The Old Ceremony | Walk on Thin Air (Alyosha)

cd_old-ceremony.jpgEach ingredient swirls smokily around the other into a rich, irresistible whole full of flavors that float in for a moment and then slip away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s often arresting to be confronted with music without an apparent agenda. Where so much indie music is soaked in posturing, puffed up for attention, the Old Ceremony don’t pose, they don’t appear to be showing off influences to wow critics or move up in the hipster league table. Instead, Walk on Thin Air serves up individual serving sized portions of slick, vaguely rootsy rock infused with a tender, affecting melancholy.

"Til My Voice Is Gone" and "Someone I Used to Know" are poster children for the band’s style of smooth, unadorned pop/rock. Upbeat arrangements are beefed up with violin or the strains of a well-placed Leslie-filtered organ. The title track uses some of the same tricks, but instead of vaguely rocking out, channels them into a haunting, percussion-free lament, punctuated by dramatically placed cymbal crashes.

Elsewhere, the band’s introverted side dominates. "Murmur" and "The Disappear" meld the loungier aspects of R.E.M.’s Up with a more modern, less exhausted Leonard Cohen, The Cohen connection isn’t surprising, considering the band’s name is derived from one of his album’s titles. "Stubborn Man" boasts the combined tenderness and rustic calm of the Band playing a 1930s or ’40s pop ballad. It’s disarming, and a little weird, but also affecting, somewhat similarly to the best moments of Dylan’s Modern Times.

There no singularly discernible influence on parade here. Rather, it’s a disc not unlike the best soups; each ingredient swirls smokily around the other into a rich, irresistible whole full of flavors that float in for a moment and then slip away, ones that you adore but just can’t quite put your finger on. There’s a bit of the Band here and there, a slight touch of Semisonic’s Dan Wilson there, and oddly, big chunks of Toad The Wet Sprocket. You can fish them out if you’d like, but I’d recommend against it. Those are good eatin’. On a related note, much of the record is, at first, underwhelming and difficult to place. "Plate Tectonics" and "By Any Other Name" tend to slip in one ear and out the other during the first few spins. But as their strong choruses and organ swells take hold, they eventually take their rightful places as album standouts.

The Old Ceremony purvey a variety of earnest, effortlessly melodic and well-crafted pop/rock that for some incomprehensible reason doesn’t seem to get much play these days. Walk on Thin Air is a trove of minor moments of pleasure, none of them astonishing, but a collection that adds up to a satisfying, soulful, organic album with a marked repeat listenability factor, one that’s as distinct as it is initially unassuming. B | Mike Rengel

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