For Fans Of
Slaughter Beach, Dog is the new pet project from Modern Baseball’s Jake Ewald. So even before releasing what came before this year’s full-length ‘Birdie’, fans inevitably rallied around the record to give it a good hard play. Somewhat similar to what happened when The Wonder Years’ Dan Campbell started up his own musical moonlighting project, Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties, Ewald here crafts an expansive universe out of his lyrics, adding depth to its characters and events through a sobering musical journey of intimate indie-rock.
For instance, paying close attention, you’ll soon realise this record’s protagonist and his love for one “Annie” aren’t absolutely separate from Ewald’s own personal adversities. Identifying references are littered throughout the album, but you don’t get any closer to relevant than this truth uttered on ‘Bad Beer‘: “if I could sell these freakin’ t-shirts baby/I might come home with a bit more money”.
As author Margaret Atwood once put it, “There has to be some blood in the cookie to make the Gingerbread Person come alive“, meaning there’s always some fact to be found in the fiction woven.
While Ewald builds up a world in his indie rock project that fans can really read into, it’s also a world that allows him to vent his own frustrations about touring in a band, growing up and being in love. For a man whose music seems to blossom and develop as time goes on (see: Modern Baseball’s divergent last effort ‘Holy Ghost‘ and this project as cases in point), it retains an integrity to the honesty underpinning it, fictitious or not.
Having said that, the album is stalled from hitting the 100 mark instrumentally. Though tracks like the uniquely distorted ‘Friend Song offer some much-needed texture, there are just times when you forget that you’re listening to a different song other than the one before it; where the mellow contemplation you’re experiencing as a consequence of tuning in turns into weariness and sleepiness and you soon forget what you’re doing. It’s deliberately somber, so it’s not unintentional, but this release does lack the contrast, the dynamic and the emotionalism that makes records like the aforementioned Dan Campbell’s so goddamn compelling. And, you know, the very records that MoBo gave us in their short-lived time.
If you’re a fan of Modern Baseball – big or small – then good god yes, give this record a chance. It may appeal to you in its universal resonance about ageing and the baggage that comes with it; about love, Lucky’s Chinese and convenience store dreaming. You’re bound to get something out of the experience, even if it’s realising that not every single indie almost-acoustic record is gonna be for you. After all, this LP sees Ewald grapple with growing up, and sometimes that also means growing apart from things you once loved.
2. Gold and Green
3. Pretty O.K.
4. Bad Beer
5. Shapes I Know
7. Fish Fry
9. Friend Song
‘Birdie’ is out now, stream it below. Get tickets for Ewald’s support tour with Machester Orchestra in 2018 here.