The Holy Ghost of Slaughter Beach: A Jake Ewald Project.
Written by Alex Couts on November 14, 2016
Photo courtesy of slaughterbeach.bandcamp.com
It was absolutely no mystery that Modern Baseball’s Holy Ghost was a wash of heavy and heartfelt emotions, in comparison to their prior releases which focused mostly on girls, drinks and awkward situations. This year’s release saw songwriters Brennan Lukens and Jake Ewald focusing more on their battle with mental illness and loss of a family member, respectively. Both taking deep look at themselves, who they are and how the hell they got to this point in their lives. There was a lot of growth in this record and in their skills as songwriters.
Ewald, holding down most of the ‘hits’ on the record, has taken great leaps and bounds from where he began, and is only improving on these abilities. Slaughter Beach, Dog is the latest side project from Ewald, welcoming a new story and a new sense of introspection. The latest release; Welcome, literally is a welcome to the town of Slaughter Beach, where Ewald introduces listeners to his mythical town of dynamic characters. Each song on this record weaves an intricate and occasionally vague tale of an inhabitant of Slaughter Beach. As an example,”Monsters”, is a telling of an adolescent girl who suffers from parental abuse fueled by their alcoholic tendencies. Or perhaps “Allen Keys”, a song about a son running this father’s workshop who has a epiphany after a box falls on his head and begins to consider his anger with his father for trapping him in the prison that is ‘running the family business’.
While these aforementioned songs deal with a darker subject matter, Ewald still finds ways to show his roots. “Mall Rat Semi-Annual” oversees two-presumably-young people at a thrown together halloween party in someone’s parent’s garage, “It’s halloween in hell / but it sure looks like dad’s garage.” The two are too nervous to talk to one another, and Ewald circles the scene as if he were an omniscient third party, silently wishing and hoping—nearly to the point of frustration—that one of them would just make the first move.
Sonically, the music isn’t far off from Modern Baseball’s vibes. However, with Ewald in the driver’s seat of the music there tends to be some more prevalent and occasionally unresolved experimentation in the songs. The songs “Bed Fest” and “Drinks” lie somewhere between in the realm of sound that an alt. country band that just discovered delay pedals and feedback might have. While aforementioned “Mall Rat Semi-Annual” and “Monsters” could almost hold a place in the Modern Baseball song rotation—but they would run the risk of it getting called: “that weird song on the record”. Perhaps the furthest from expected component of these songs is Ewald’s use of guitar tones that are reminiscent of that of metal bands. Using thick fuzz and distortion with a heavy drive to really set a dynamic range—like you might hear in MoBo songs similar to Cooke—to songs like “Essex Street” and “Jobs”. Finally, to speak to the most accessible songs on the record, there are still plenty of classic Jake Ewald slow jams—see “Pothole” and “Coals”—on this collection of songs. Most notable are “Politics of Grooming” and “Toronto Mug II”, which borders on the realm of sharing lyrics with “Pothole” from Modern Baseball’s You’re Going to Miss it All. In absolutely no way is this a bad aspect of the music, rather it shows the strong coherence in Ewald’s song writing skills.
Slaughter Beach, Dog’s Welcome is out now via Lame-O Records and can be found on Spotify and Apple Music (and streamed below). You can catch Ewald on tour later this month with Abi Reimold.