Thursday, February 5, 2009

Review: The Old Ceremony - Walk On Thin Air (* * * 1/2)

The Old Ceremony are a North Carolina-based band who are set to release their third album, Walk On Thin Air, next week. The group's wide range of influences makes for a smooth, rock sound that feels slightly familiar but difficult to pin down at the same time. The band manage to channel the feeling of classic rock 'n' roll in a more progressive orchestral direction that makes for some captivating moments on their new record.

Walk On Thin Air starts with a bang; the triumphant "Til My Voice Is Gone" bursts from the speakers with a joyful mix of guitars, keyboards, and singer Django Haskins' clear, even vocals. The song's message of perseverance and strength in times of trial borders on cheesy, but the sing-a-longable chorus and exciting instrumental climax are impossible to resist. About half of the album is filled with this same sort of epic, sweeping style and most of it works quite well. "Plate Tectonics" builds into a beautiful wall of sound with swirling strings and keys, "By Any Other Name" has a great guitar-driven rock chorus, and "Same Difference" takes some interesting and unexpected turns.

It's on the softer, gentler side of Walk On Thin Air that you find both the highest and lowest points. The gorgeous title track's sparse, restrained sound floats along with a sort of melancholy that gets under your skin and keeps your ears at attention. Another highlight is "The Disappear," a slinky and sexy pop tune with a dark, Noir-ish feel that brings Haskins' somewhat spooky lyrics to life. During the latter third or so of the record, however, the results are slightly less consistent. "Boy Prince" and "Don't Parade Your Scars" are examples of songs that are pleasant enough, but lack enough of a hook to maintain the listener's interest. The weak spots don't distract from the better material, but they don't add much either, which is a shame.

Walk On Thin Air certainly contains enough strong songs to be worth your time thanks to the band members' musicianship and ability to blend so many styles with apparent ease. This is music that is both effortlessly enjoyable from a casual perspective and appreciable in a deeper, more artistic sense, and that's an accomplishment in itself.

Check out some of the new tunes on the band's MySpace page.