It’s hard to evaluate an album when you hear it for the first time live. This was the case for me and Dylan LeBlanc’s Cast the Same Old Shadow. All of this “Gosh, isn’t he complex and wounded?” chat seems a little diluted, having seen him on stage; he jokes, he’s self-deprecating and genuinely funny with it. Occasionally, he said something like, “This is about a particularly difficult time in my life”, and everyone remembered that they had come to see a serious musician who writes about serious things. Oh, whoops, yes, sorry. As you were.
Cast The Same Old Shadow is LeBlanc’s second album – um, how? – and I can’t help but view the title a little ironically. He must know that the intensity of his music might be sniffed at because of his age; calling songs things like Part One: The End might well be LeBlanc’s sneer at the doubters. Having seen the twinkle in his eye on stage, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
But it is a melancholy record, full of mourning vocals and pedal guitars. You worry about LeBlanc’s voice when you first start listening to the album – surely that’s going to get annoying, surely it hurts a bit to sing like that, surely he could just enunciate sometimes – but it’s actually fine. The album can sound a little samey; the orchestration is rarely altered to a noticeable extent, and the songs risk blurring into each other. The subject matter discusses solitude and abandonment, and it doesn’t make many attempts to disguise itself as a break-up album. But the best songs of the album, Brother, The Ties That Bind and Comfort Me in my opinion, carry it home. His ability to blend deep sadness and loneliness with a vocal delicacy and beautiful guitar-playing is a joy.
He’d hate to hear it said, but if this is what he’s writing at 22, goodness only knows what will follow. It lacks slightly in lyrical interest and musical exploration, but it’s still great.