As frontman for The Old Ceremony, a role he's filled for well over a decade, Django Haskins has effectively established himself as a thoughtful songwriter with a knack for pop-rock traditions. Side gigs in Au Pair (with The Jayhawks' Gary Louris) and the touring ensemble behind Big Star's Third only reinforce those classicist bona fides, adding a touch of Americana and power-pop into the mix.
But with Shadowlawn, his first solo album in seventeen years, Haskins opts for a looser, rangier approach that lends a sense of off-the-cuff intimacy that rarely shows in his more polished and fully arranged outfits.
A sparse banjo plinks along album opener, "Blink," as Haskins croons wistfully, "Blink and you'll miss it/A car trip, a jump rope, a slide/Washed in the hours/Afloat on an amnesia tide." Fittingly, the spare front-porch meander winds its way into a haze of multi-tracked vocals, Haskins singing in harmony with himself. "The Quarry" goes even deeper into dream-pop territory, building from a wash of airy synths into a moody sort of goth exotica.
But even as Haskins veers back toward his more straightforward comfort zones— as on the jaunty piano ballad "Our Old Enemy The Moon," or the folksy rollick of "Green Grass of Elsewhere"—Shadowlawn feels like an experiment, a chance for Haskins to stretch his songwriting chops and explore new stylistic angles. As much as he may let his muse roam, Haskins's warm tenor lends a uniformly cozy sound to his songs' explorations.
Throughout the album, Haskins proves not only his versatility but his consistency as a singer and songwriter in these varied settings. Fans of any of Haskins's more tenured bands are likely to enjoy repeat visits to Shadowlawn.