With a sound that blends elements of folk and industrial plus clever lyrics about coming to grips with reality, Slaughter Beach, Dog’s latest release At the Moonbase reflects how Covid-19 has mentally and physically affected many people’s lives.
A Philadelphia-based indie-folk outfit, Slaughter Beach, Dog, started as a side-project for post-emo stalwarts Modern Baseball — whose songs required visceral emotional transparency — vocalist and guitarist Jake Ewald. After four albums, including the latest, it has now become a full-fledged band.
As tension and mental health complications arose within Modern Baseball, Ewald created the fictional town of Slaughter Beach and populated it with fictional characters, ditching the old pop-punk punches in favor of a more subdued folk-driven sound.
The band’s driving force is Ewald, with his ability to portrait emotions and feelings through descriptions of objects, people, or actions through painfully clever illustrated lyrics.
At the Moonbase — recorded by Ewald alone in his home and at his Philadelphia studio, The Metal Shop — brings a fresh take on Slaughter Beach, Dog’s evolving sound, introducing ambient synth, lively piano, and even some saxophone to the rawness of Ewald’s storytelling.
The different aspects of the album come together to create a work filled with a compelling collision of form and style with an atmosphere of bittersweet hope.
The opening track “Are You There” is a perfect example of an artist feeling a sense of remorse for himself or others: “Are you there?/ Did patience wane?/ Did you fall asleep to your four-track recording of rain?/ Do you feel tame? Do you feel insane?”
Ewald’s ability to transform mundane and melancholy lyrics into painfully beautiful snapshots filled with empathy and concern towards others gives the listener a sense of closure or hope amid the last year of darkness.
For a moment, the track “Notes From a Brief Engagement (At the Boot & Saddle)” is a charming shot of pure nostalgia for live music. The lyrics pay homage to the Boot & Saddle, a Philadelphia venue whose popular concert calendar was lost to the COVID-19 shutdowns
Ewald sings from the point of view of a musician trying physically and mentally prepare to perform a live show. It’s an ode to live concerts, which his fans no doubt miss: It’s hard to sing when I’m holding my breath/I try to get loose, shake out my hands/Drink more, jump up and down.
As Ewald reminisces about a time and place that brought him excitement, it gives listeners a chance to reflect on the musical moments that have brought them joy too.
With At the Moonbase, Slaughter Beach, Dog, finds its sweet spot with a unique lyrical and musical presence. It gives fans much-needed hope that even in darkness, there will soon be light.