Chapel Hill's the Old Ceremony deliver more '60s-influenced chamber pop ruminations on 2012's Fairytales and Other Forms of Suicide. The band's fifth studio effort, the album is a melodic, rambling, low-key work that once again showcases lead singer/songwriter Django Haskins' knack for intimate and folky songs that bring to mind a mix of the archly literate work of Leonard Cohen and the more atmospheric alt-folk of Elliott Smith. Largely built around strummed or fingerpicked acoustic guitar, these songs are also draped with minimal touches of violin, organ, electric guitar, drums, and various percussion instruments. There is also a cinematic, imagistic quality to many of Haskins' lyrics that make for an often surrealistic emotional listen. On the ominously poetic duet "Beebe Arkansas," Haskins and his female partner relate the impossibly true story of a strange, almost Biblical natural event from New Year's Eve 2010 when birds fell from the sky. They sing "5,000 blackbirds raining down over Beebe Arkansas/It's a hard way to end a New Year's Eve/Black feathers everywhere/Cold in the midnight air." Similarly evocative, the midtempo ballad "Elsinore" turns Shakespeare's tragic play Hamlet into a bittersweet metaphor for suicide, or perhaps the end of a relationship. A surprisingly warm and tuneful piece of alt-folk cinema, it features Haskins' gentle drawl juxtaposed against his stark lyrics. He croons "Throw your mattress on the sidewalk and keep moving on/The Streets are caving in/There's not much time for getting gone/Leave a note in semaphore/Scattered corns along the shore I don't know what you’re waiting for/It's comin' to an end, my friend/This holiday in Elsinore." The song, much like the rest of Fairytales and Other Forms of Suicide, sticks with you, drawing you back into its darkened narrative long after it's ended.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar