The recent loss of Modern Baseball has already taken effect. In an emo scene that’s become fractious in recent times, they served as a rock of stability within its turbulent waters. And judging by ‘Birdie’, the newest album from MoBo vocalist / guitarist Jake Ewald under the Slaughter Beach, Dog moniker, there’s a mirror placed right in front of that sadness. Coupled with the mental health issues that Ewald has made no secret about expressing in the past, ‘Birdie’ is a deeply expressive and human listen.
The primary vehicle for this comes with Ewald himself, plain-spoken and flat in his vocal delivery in a way that totally aids the direction he aims for. ‘Pretty Okay’’s assertions of “Everything was fine, everything was good” buried halfway in the mix and nestled in Ewald’s complete lack of artifice makes for a particularly sombre listen, as do the imagery laden and slightly overwritten lyrics of ‘Shapes I Know’ and ‘Fish Fry’. There’s not a hint of flash or unnecessary gimmickry here, just Ewald digging deep into himself and laying the results bare.
Of course, with instrumentation that gives him little to nothing to hide behind in this regard, that was always going to be the case, and ‘Birdie’’s deliberate downplaying keeps that narrative right at its forefront. Minimalism is definitely a strength here, with the simple guitar and organ pieces on ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Friend Song’ running thick with a rich, earthy swell, and the country influences that particularly come to the fore on ‘Acolyte’ that pair with Ewald’s storytelling for an utterly gorgeous closing track.
There’s nothing garish or bombastic here, just heartfelt songwriting and instrumentation that accentuates its best elements. Even if that may put some off with a preference for something more daring and expansive, ‘Birdie’ at its core feels primarily like a labour of love, rough around the edges but with an introspective heart that may be somewhat broken, but shines through regardless. Definitely worth the time to delve into.
‘Birdie’ by Slaughter Beach, Dog is released on 27th October on Big Scary Monsters / Lame-O Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall (@nuttall_luke)