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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Steady Hands-Truth in Comedy

     Supposedly, the ancient Persians would make laws, and then, they would get drunk to make sure they made the right law.  Looking through history, some of our greatest thinkers, writers, and figures have been drunks, and it’s makes you think maybe the Persians had something.  That’s not to say all important life decisions should be decided when teetering on a blackout, but sometimes brilliance can be whiskey drenched.  Steady Hands explore the inner workings of human nature, while downing a Pabst Blue Ribbon on their proper debut album Truth in Comedy.   Continue reading

2017 Albums of the Year: Honorable Mentions

Earlier this year, I made an effort to keep track of every album (regardless of release date) I listened to in 2017.  I gave up around May, but maybe I’ll try again for 2018.  By the time I called it quits, I’d listened to 122 albums, and upon reviewing the list, I did see a bunch of albums I did really enjoy but forgot about.  My best-of list will feature my top picks of albums that stuck with me from the time they came out until now, but these honorable mentions were also pretty great albums that I feel deserve some recognition.  In no particular order, some of the other great albums from 2017 are:

Lil Peep-Come Over When You’re Sober (Part One)

The morning I found out about Lil Peep’s death was strange.  I’d liked some of his songs, but his music hadn’t really grabbed and held me like it had for others.  I still felt sad, mainly just seeing someone younger than me die of an overdose.  I went back and listened to this album again that day, and I was surprised by how much it resonated with me.  Lil Peep is the sort of artist I wish I had when I was fourteen, because it’s relatable and catchy.  It really makes me upset that I wish I could’ve seen what else he could’ve done, not just for music, but for young sad kids that I do see a lot of myself in.

Black Kids-Rookie

Black Kids’ first album in nine years was a lovely return to form.  It’s an easily danceable indie-rock record with a bunch of quotable lines.  “Iffy” and “Obligatory Drugs” are perfect examples of how Black Kids maintain the same energy that could’ve left them an indie one-hit-wonder.  Continue reading

Slaughter Beach, Dog-Birdie

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 WelcomeBirdie seems to be truer to Ewald’s life than the first Slaughter Beach, Dog album in a too sweet for its own good way. Continue reading

The Best Albums of 2016: Honorable Mentions

As album-of-the-year season approaches, we’ve been reflecting on the music we’ve heard this year.  While a more formal list is coming, these items are all honorable mentions for a number of reasons.  While it may just be that we felt our list was better, for many of these albums it has to do with the fact, we just didn’t get to spend as much time as we would have liked with them.  These are still some of the best records of the year, in no particular order.

Chance the Rapper-Coloring Book

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Chance’s third mixtape is one of his strongest.  With gospel-infused hip hop, he brought some of the best feel-good songs of the summer.

Must listen song: “No Problem”

Continue reading

Monday Mixtape: 10/3 (The Weeknd, Bon Iver, Nick Drake)

The Weeknd-“False Alarm”

Following an electric SNL performance, it seems The Weeknd’s Starboy will be one of the strongest in R&B this year.  It’s one of the fastest, heaviest loaded songs, creating a dark club track.

 

Bon Iver-“715-CRSSKS”

This haunting auto-tuned anthem has some of the heaviest emotions on all of Bon Iver’s latest release.  Justin Vernon lets the weight of the world fall on the listener as his vocals become more distorted and confusing until he’s shouting during the song’s outro.

 

Slaughter Beach, Dog-“Jobs”
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Painting an image of the fictitious Slaughter Beach’s thriving underbelly, this is one of the most varied pieces on Jake Ewald’s debut solo album.  It’s an infectious track with one of the best opening lines of the year.

 

Bad Religion-“Fuck Armageddon…This is Hell”

 

As debates have been recapped, we keep alluding to the end of the world with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  This is a fitting song for an election year, and for the fact that I’m seeing Bad Religion tomorrow night.

 

Brand New-“Limousine”

 

The Long Island hometown heroes have just announced that they will be playing this iconic album from front to back on their forthcoming tour with Modern Baseball and The Front Bottoms.  This is one of the best songs from Devil and God and sure to be explosive as always.

 

Diet Cig-“Harvard”

Speaking of The Front Bottoms, I’ve been reviewing their Champagne Jam lineup, and I’m always thrilled to see some of New Paltz’s finest on the list.  This punky, emotional jam is a must-listen from the duo.

 

Against Me!-“I Still Love You Julie”


Another prep for Tuesday night’s show-I have my fingers crossed to hear a couple classic Reinventing Axl Rose songs on Tuesday from Against Me!

 

Nick Drake-“Day is Done”

 

Nick Drake’s eerie folk tune is fitting for the rainy fall weather New York has seen this weekend.  As October rears its head, Nick Drake’s mournful folk is always suited to the occasion.

 

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.