Slaughter Beach, Dog-Safe and Also No Fear

On his third record under the Slaughter Beach, Dog moniker, Jake Ewald has found a way to be an emotional and interesting storyteller.  Safe and Also No Fear is the former Modern Baseball singer’s most consistent effort with the project yet.  While the musician still paints very specific sketches of people and places, he isn’t as concerned about stories, as he was on Welcome, or finding a new voice for himself, as he was on Birdie.  Safe has the confidence of a band that have finally found their voice and wanted to make a great record that expands on what they’ve built. Continue reading

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Death Cab For Cutie-Thank You For Today

            Death Cab For Cutie have always been a respectable indie-rock act with personable lyrics that appeal to people that may also dabble with theatrical emo.  Ben Gibbard and company have always created serviceable sad jams.  Even on 2015’s Kintsugi, despite age and maturity, Gibbard was able to bring the self-loathing goods on a song like “No Room in Frame.”  Thank You For Today sees the band’s expansion of sound that they began exploring on Codes and Keys, but it also sees the band peddling back into their early material.  The album comes out feeling like an incoherent blob of ennui. Continue reading

Kississippi-Sunset Blush

This isn’t an album I would normally enjoy.  Debut albums from indie rock bands that toe the line between dream pop and emo are usually aggressively okay.  The songs are fine, but they don’t become interesting until the second album.  That’s sort of the case with Philadelphia’s Kississippi.  Sunset Blush is both energetic and mellow, and it seems like the type of album that I’d shrug off as “fine.”  Here’s the thing: it’s pretty good, and I’ve been really enjoying Kississippi’s first album. Continue reading

The Spook School-Could It Be Different?

There aren’t many artists that can recapture the catchy, emotional energy that bands like Modern Baseball and Diet Cig have been able to in the past few years.  Glasgow’s The Spook School fully encompass all the best qualities of both those bands on their latest album Could It Be Different?  They balance between sincere feelings and snarky adolescent wit within a bright pop-punk frame that borrows from classics as much as it does from emo revivalists.  It’s an overwhelmingly good album in a genre that has more and more felt exhausted of its creativity. Continue reading

Jetty Bones-Old Women

I hate to make the easy comparison, but this sounds like early Paramore in the best possible way.  The band’s sole consistent member and frontwoman Kelc Galluzzo commands a stage and has a voice that rivals Hayley Williams’.  While 2017 has been a great year for female-fronted bands, most tend to lean towards a punkier or more emo sound, and Jetty Bones are unafraid to embrace a sense of mid-2000’s pop-punk.  The pop embrace is in full effect on the band’s second EP, Old Women. Continue reading

Julien Baker-Turn Out the Lights

There aren’t that many artists that can kick you in the shins emotionally quite the same way that Julien Baker does on her sophomore album Turn Out the Lights.  That is to say that these are songs that can make you cry the first time you hear them.  If you’re having a tough time in this thing called life, bring a box of tissues to your drunk/hungover/lonesome listening party of this album.  From the door creak that opens the album to the final fading notes on the piano, Baker will take you through pain, numbness, uplift, and catharsis. Continue reading

The Shins-Heartworms

For Heartworms being the first album The Shins have released in five years, it’s pretty boring. As a pretty avid Shins fan, I was excited to see what this album was about. I adore the album artwork, it’s got a 60’s illustration vibe and unfortunately, that is my favorite part of this album. It’s not that any of the songs are subjectively bad, but there isn’t anything new or attention grabbing. Continue reading

Mitski: Webster Hall, New York, NY 11/21/16

Walking up to Webster Hall on a cold November night, the thought of seeing Mitski at a sold out show in the 1,500 capacity Grand Ballroom is surreal.  This is a room where I’ve seen The Wonder Years and The Front Bottoms, pop-punk superstars.  I’ve been invited to see Mitski at house shows throughout the Hudson Valley.  I’ve tried to see her at the Music Hall of Williamsburg or Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium to no success.  Seeing her name posted below the venue’s name along with the words “Sold Out” filled me with the kind of excitement you only get from seeing a quality artist reach a level of success they deserve.  Mitski has placed herself as an artist that can deliver the sort of huge show that Webster Hall calls for.

Opening up the show were Canada’s Weaves, who really delivered more than the audience bargained for.  Jasmyn Burke can control the stage with a very laidback demeanor.  Weaves sound a little bit like Vampire Weekend in the way they make feel-good music that can jump from sounding punky to ska-influenced in a matter of seconds.  It’s been such a long time since an opening act had caught my attention the way Weaves had.  The end of the set was sexy with Burke and her bassist singing into the same microphone, and the music made the audience move at the very least.

The UK’s Fear of Men had the middle set, but their brand of mellow, synthy post-punk didn’t translate very well in a live setting.  The band isn’t bad, but the energy that Weaves brought into the room lost momentum once Fear of Men started playing.  The band was fine though.  I’d be willing to give them another shot at a different show.

Mitski’s popularity has soared to the point that her stepping on stage to setup her gear elicited cheers.  Her past two albums have shown that she can make classic songs that are equal parts catchy and emotional.  From the opening of “Dan the Dancer” to “Class of 2013,” Mitski showed just what has made her an indie-superstar.  The louder numbers drew larger reactions from the audience as you could hear everyone singing along to the choruses of “Townie” and “Your Best American Girl,” but Webster Hall was dead silent during the softer songs.  Mitski is equally powerful for both, whether she’s singing “Fuck you and your money” or “Please don’t say you love me.”  The classical training she’s received has always shined through in her intricate instrumentals and wide range of vocals, but it was shocking to hear how soft-spoken Mitski is between songs.  When she made note that this was a safe-space for everyone, it was much more reserved sounding than any other declaration I’ve heard at a show.  Her reserved demeanor only makes the powerhouse vocals on a song like “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” all the better.

Mitski followed Monday’s show with a much smaller scale at Brooklyn’s Villian.  While it seems Mitski may never leave the DIY realm entirely, her headlining gig at Webster Hall only seems to be the start of a much bigger stage of her career.

 

James Crowley is on Twitter.

Burger A Day is on Instagram and Facebook.

Slaughter Beach, Dog-Welcome

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In a similar vein as The Mountain Goats’ All Hail West Texas, Slaughter Beach, Dog’s Welcome tells different perspectives of people all in the same place.  Whether the songs are full band romps or stripped back acoustic numbers, Jake Ewald brings a textured town to life in his first solo effort.

About midway through Welcome, Ewald sings:

                        My friends don’t need jobs

                        Cause they all sell drugs

                        Spending Fridays setting fires

                        With their college degrees

                        And I think to some degree

                        They are more practical than me

Just like on All Hail West Texas, Jake Ewald does what John Darnielle does on a song like “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton;” he shows that these characters are real.  Just like every Mountain Goats fan knows a Jeff and a Cyrus, Ewald and the audience all have friends selling drugs, pissing away college degrees.  While at times the album seems dystopic, Ewald shows a love in dysfunction through chugging anthems like “Monsters” or “Mallrat Semi-Annual.”  “Monsters” sees an older brother sticking up for a defenseless younger sister at the end, in a fond memory in a now deteriorating home.  “Mallrat” shows the perspectives of people on a first date, both anxious out of spite and nerves.

These guitar heavy, up-tempo songs are definitely some of the most lyrically intricate and visually interesting songs where Ewald sings about fonts on gravestones, New Year’s Eve and “Halloween in Hell.”  Some of the more tender moments come from the softer songs.  “The Politics of Grooming” is reminiscent of Garth Stein’s novel The Art of Racing in the Rain.  The song is seemingly told from a dog’s perspective as his owner watches the world she’s come to know fall apart and die around her.  “Toronto Mug” and “Toronto Mug II” are both about what it’s like to be stuck in the sort of decrepit town that Slaughter Beach is.  Whether you’re searching for a DVD or “counting cracks on Essex Street,” you only have a souvenir mug from a foreign city to provide you with a real sense of escapism.

Musically, Ewald is able to go many different places naturally on this album.  Whether it’s palm-muted power chords on “Mallrat Semi-Annual,” classic rock melody on “Drinks,” sweet finger-picking on “Bed Fest” or the funky, math rock of “Forever” nothing is out of place.  There are moments that bare some resemblance to songs like “Hiding” or “Note to Self” from Modern Baseball’s Holy Ghost, Jake Ewald’s main outfit.  Still, this sort of concept album has more to do with The Weakerthans or the Mountain Goats than it does with Brand New or The Front Bottoms.

While Welcome doesn’t have the confessional lyrics we’ve come to know from Ewald and Modern Baseball, it does have the honest quality that storyteller-songwriters always need.  In creating a fictional work in its own universe, he’s created characters that reflect real people as well as his more personal work does.  It seems as if the biggest running theme in Slaughter Beach, Dog’s songs is paralysis in small town life.  It’s an extremely pop-punk sentiment on an album that owes very little to pop-punk.  It’s a vastly personal exploration that can be both hilarious and heartbreaking within its 28 minutes.