By Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182)
What started out as Jake Ewald of Modern Baseball’s side project has evolved into an impressive musical outlet that showcases the Philly musician’s talent for illustrative lyrics and fleshed-out harmonies.
Birdie, the follow-up to last year’s debut, Welcome, presents more accessible songs and sees Ewald making another leap towards finding his sound. As Birdie trades in the concept behind Welcome and the fictional characters and town of Slaughter Beach, Birdie does not lack storytelling and sees most every song following a storyline or person of some sort. From Fish Fry’s presumed tale of recovering alcoholism to the bittersweet coming of age story on Pretty O.K.
What sticks out the most on Birdie is the talent Ewald has for stringing lyrics together. There are few lines where lyrics seem out of place or awkward. It’s easily Ewald’s most impressive lyrical output to date. The instrumentals have shown more layering than what we’re used to expect from the former Modern Baseball co-vocalist. While the acoustic guitar is the primary instrument throughout most of the album, there are light drums, synthesizers, and harmonics that help to make every track feel as full as they need to be. Ian Farmer, the former bassist of Modern Baseball, does an excellent job making Birdie not feel over-produced. There’s a certain presence of each track where it has enough room to breathe on its own as an acoustic track but adds enough instruments to feel like there’s a backing band, all without distracting you from the fact that Ewald is the star of the show throughout the record.
Songs like Acolyte, Phoenix, Gold and Green and Fish Fry all stand out with their infectious melodies and head-turning rhymes. They feel as full as they can possibly be and become better with every listen. Phoenix is one of the songs on the record that feels like some of Ewald’s best work, compiling incredible verse after verse with a backing acoustic track that puts you in the room with Ewald.
“Those nights your house kept secret
We’d stumble up the stairs
My hands tore through your records
While your hands unpinned your hair
The both of us still green enough
To remove the other’s clothes
A quiet signal of devotion
That I am happy to have known”
Birdie acts as one of the most refreshing and content indie releases this year. While it can’t be hailed at Ewald’s magnum opus, it’s definitely a sure sign that he’s moving in the right direction to create his best work yet. Fans of Modern Baseball might be let down by the energy that Birdie carries, as it’s not very punk or emo based. Birdie plays front to back as a cohesively content album that begins and ends strongly. While there are some tracks stronger than others, it’s one of the most pleasant releases of 2017