THE OLD CEREMONY
We shorthand “classic songwriting” to imply music which sounds like it could’ve been penned in any era — so strong are the songs in the fundamentals of melody and lyrics-writing. Classic songwriters also seem to use whatever literary conceit is at hand to hit on the deeper truths in our lives. For Django Haskins, the polymath who fronts Durham’s Old Ceremony, that’s saying something, too. Haskins is writing two nonfiction books and has previously penned songs with subject matter ranging from plate tectonics to New York City development czar Robert Moses. Now, on a Yep Roc debut and fifth release, Fairytales and Other Forms of Suicide, we find Haskins and his band equally adept at capturing Big Star’s long shadow as they are channelling the bittersweet love tales of their namesake, Leonard Cohen. In songs which deal with everything from modern-day plagues (“Beebe, Arkansas”), the poisonous political landscape (“Sink or Swim”), scientific progress (“Star by Star”) and a slew of love-gone-sideways ditties, the Old Ceremony cuts to the crux of the theme that runs throughout the record: Learning to cope with the world as it is, not as we want it to be. With adult fare like that couched in elegant songs where patience rewards repeat listens, “classic songwriting” seems an entirely apt description.