It’s not really shocking to find that Jake Ewald is a massive fan of the Mountain Goats and The Weakerthans. His Modern Baseball songs were always incredibly descriptive and made mundane events seem much more fascinating with his lyrics. It’s unsurprising that his second album from his Slaughter Beach, Dog outfit bares a strong resemblance to The Weakerthans’ John K. Samson’s recent solo effort. Birdie is also much more of a jangle-pop effort than even last year’s Welcome. Birdie seems to be truer to Ewald’s life than the first Slaughter Beach, Dog album in a too sweet for its own good way.
The lyrics on Birdie have elements of the storytelling that Ewald explored on Welcome. “Shapes I Know” references a character named Emily and her family. The loudest track on the album, “Sleepwalking” narrates seeing someone loaded out of their mind at a bar. “Phoenix” depicts an early part of a relationship where you’re comfortable enough to watch a girl change, but still don’t know everything about their life. The whistling on “Acolyte” makes it into a casual sounding ballad, setting up a sugary ending to a romantic comedy.
Birdie is a very relaxing album. Ewald takes a coffeehouse approach to the songs here. It’s very easy to place in the background and forget about. This works both to the album’s advantage and detriment. It’s a very pleasant album to listen to. The guitar parts are bright and beachy feeling. There’s no sense of tension to be found anywhere on the album. It’ll inevitably put you in a good mood. That being said, there’s little about the album that’s memorable. Ewald’s lyrics like “Singing praise songs/From the back seat under cold fluorescent lights” in “Fish Fry” blend into the instrumental. They complement each other nicely, but it’s also easy to miss some of the great, wordy lyrics. This isn’t a heavy album to meditate on. It’s a nice, relaxing breather. There’s not a whole lot to it, but I can’t complain.