Django Haskins: Lost World | ★★★ | Self-released  |  July 27

It’s no surprise that an album born from an exercise to help maintain creativity during the pandemic would concern itself with distance.

Django Haskins’s Lost World, the first piano-led collection from the Old Ceremony songwriter, draws on the roughly 120 songs (and counting) he has penned since May 2020, spurred by a group of friends who started getting together virtually once a week to share a new song and get feedback. 

The eight songs culled for the album constantly assess distances with a yearning to overcome them. Some of these distances are physical, some are formed by the mortality and loss that Haskins notes as persistent themes, and some are even more metaphysical, taking stock of the divide between what you want the world to be and what it is.

The music is a fitting backdrop for such lonely, contemplative ruminations, with the patient piano parts Haskins recorded solo at his Calvander Sound studio in Chapel Hill reveling in the echoing distance between keystrokes. The record, finished in postproduction with help from Chris Stamey of The dB’s, adds subtle, ethereal embellishments from guitar, bass, drums, and saxophone (provided by The Mountain Goats’ Matt Douglas) to juice the feeling that these songs emanate from far away, hoping to find a sympathetic listener.

That’s exactly the kind of distance Haskins feels on “Woodpecker,” which finds  the narrator sitting alone in an abandoned city, sending out notes in bottles “Like a record of ‘Johnny B. Goode’ sent to echo forever in space / We go searching for an innocent ear in the universe’s empty face.”

Opener “Man in Sea” examines the distance that can form between parents and children. Haskins sings from the perspective of the son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, who became a diver to form his own legacy. “My father flew, and so I dove,” he intones, “Where his shadow cannot go.”

“From an Airplane” looks out at a world filled with chaos and finds comfort in the false notion of control conjured by watching from above: “From an airplane, I control the seas / From a window in economy.” Album closer “Will There Be Time” dreads life’s inevitable separation between loved ones, wondering if there will be enough time to do everything he wants to do with his family: “It’s not like we’re sitting around doing nothing / We’re building a beautiful life / And I almost cry when I look at our children / They never understand why.”

Carried forth by Haskins’s expressive singing—actorly, but never overdramatic—each of these earnest exercises tugs at thoughts that haunt life’s quiet moments. As such, it’s a product of the pandemic that should have a long shelf life.

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