The Old Ceremony

Our One Mistake

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Although Chapel Hill's the Old Ceremony have the chamber-pop-orchestra size of the Polyphonic Spree minus the choir (nine members, including a full-time string section and accordion player), their second album is surprisingly intimate. The twin focus on Our One Mistake is on frontman Django Haskins' low-key vocals and James Wallace's Randy Newman-influenced piano, leaving the rest of the band to fill in the arrangements sparsely, adding a bit of boulevardier élan here (the aforementioned accordion) and some '70s album rock moves there, especially when Mark Simonsen is showing off his clavinet skills, as on the white-boy funk of "Radio Religion." The overall effect is pleasantly like a much less smarmy Ben Folds fronting the Decemberists, with the same blend of somewhat arch lyrics and melodic folk-rock-based tunes. One surprising highlight is the delightful "Bao Qian," an otherwise straightforward pop song sung almost entirely in Mandarin. (Haskins was a Chinese language and literature major in college.) Clever but heartfelt, Our One Mistake will likely appeal to fans of brainy pop.

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