Unless you’re fond of wallowing in misfortune, Cast the Same Old Shadow is not to be experienced on the back of a break-up. Poor Dylan LeBlanc, however, can’t help himself. Recorded after he’d been dumped, if it’s not clear from its opener’s title that this second album is awash with heartache, it’s sledgehammered home once the dejected vocals swoop in.
LeBlanc’s in possession of a breathier version of Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold’s woodland falsetto, which seems almost embarrassed to have grabbed attentions with its rugged purity. He might only be 22, but LeBlanc’s seen a darkness, one which has him coming across as a more rustic Jeff Buckley.
Though born in Louisiana, LeBlanc’s sound isn’t particularly Southern. Instead, he conjures up visions of the plaid-shirted tribes of the Pacific Northwest and of Neil Young humbly combing his sideburns by a sequoia before whittling a love token for the unrequited object of his affections.
The follow-up to 2010’s Paupers Field, this set plunders the overarching melancholy of Townes Van Zandt, making for an emotionally draining listen. The album’s cathartic country title track is a case in point. Of the song, LeBlanc says: “I wrote that song in my house and everyone had just left including a girl I liked, and she didn’t feel the same way about me. I wrote this song since I was feeling sorry for myself.”
What makes LeBlanc special, though, is his way of infusing the bleakest moments with slivers of hope – a major chord here, a lyric that sounds like it was sung from under a semi-smile there.
The gut-punching riffs of standout track Brother are counter-balanced with a jaunty hillbilly shuffle and, with its moaning pedal steel, Comfort Me gives off a surprising barroom bounce. Where Are You Now, another song about being ditched, allows sweeping 1960s symphonics to provide a dash of optimism.
LeBlanc admits he was listening to Beach House when recording this album and you can hear their influence, albeit subtly, in the hypnotic spreading of sound in the likes of Diamonds and Pearls. Proof positive that break-ups aren’t all bad.