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
The music of Modern Baseball has always been part therapeutic, part cathartic. The emo rockers, hailing from Philly, have repeatedly fought their inner demons numerous times over their discography that has spanned three albums, possibly one of the finest album trilogies in this century. With the band now on hiatus while Brendan Lukens deals with his personal turmoil, now seems an apt time to look back at the band’s music contributions and determine the best of the bunch.
The second track off their latest LP Holy Ghost, Wedding Singer finds itself in a unique position of being one of the band’s most upbeat songs both instrumentally and lyrically. Appearing on the first half of the record, written by Jake Ewald, we hear optimistic lines about “stamping out the sorry feeling” while a memorable riff twists and turns over the track’s running time. Touching on themes that the band explored on their debut, more specifically @chl03k with quips about social media and dating, Wedding Singer marked the return of Modern Baseball in their most mature fashion.
Featuring some of Lukens’ best lyrics to date, “Sharp as a tack, but in the sense that you’re not smart, just a prick”, today’s first appearance of a sophomore album track comes in the form of The Old Gospel Choir. Often overlooked by fans, this song finds our narrator discussing not only his apathy with other people but himself, often resulting in those around him to leave for that very reason. With this in mind alongside the instrumental shake up after the first verse, The Old Gospel Choir is just one of many gems in MoBo’s discography.
Another You’re Gonna Miss It All track, this time the finale Pothole. Written and performed by Ewald, we find ourselves witnessing the deconstruction of certain tropes in the genre by mocking it, specifically near the start with “romanticising my despair”. The song’s true emotional weight his near the final few lines as Ewald begins to compare himself to cracks in concrete, giving the impression of a man who views his own self worth very lowly but will do anything to give someone the love he himself wants.
Everyday is a short exhibit of those insignificant memories and an attempt at understanding their importance in my life.
Not only this but the song touches on how everyone views, well, every day: whether it’s a gift from god as shown by the song’s female character or a challenge, Everyday finds Ewald at his lyrical peak as well as his most interesting vocally.
You thought we weren’t gonna include any tracks off Sports? You thought wrong: Cooke is just one of many instances on the band’s debut of the band being incredibly mature very early in their career. Packing one Modern Baseball’s best choruses as well as a visceral rundown of depression, it’s a great example of the emo rock outfit’s ability to etch itself into your head with an infectious hook but leave you thinking about the song in a far more depressing fashion.
Now that we’re in the top five it’s time to hit out with the big guns. A cut off the band’s The Perfect Cast EP, The Waterboy Returns seems like an innocent enough track from the title alone, a nod to the appearance of Cameron Boucher from Sorority Noise who shares the same surname as Adam Sandler’s character from the film. However, as the song begins and Lukens begins to sing, you realise the impact this song brings: singing about toxic coping mechanisms and the harsh reality that people are happy to offer support but not give it, The Waterboy Returns stands out as one of the band’s most important tracks.
While it may be the most conventional or immature song thematically, girl picks jock over geek, Tears Over Beers stands out as a favourite amongst fans for a reason. Turning the whole experience into some kind of masochist experience for the girl in question, the song is backed up by some of the catchiest instrumentals the band have ever crafted. It may not stand out as unique in the genre but is sure as hell holds up as a great track.
3. Alpha Kappa Fall of Troy the Movie Part Deux (2 Disc Director’s Cut)
It may have the biggest title of all the songs ranked today but Alpha Kappa isn’t over compensating. Described by the band themselves, the song is about those who “pretend you don’t care, or just don’t feel. It’s not until you meet someone you can be unabashedly honest with that you realize how half-assed your life has become”. Lyrically the song is great but it’s in the performances where the most enjoyment comes from: moody chugging guitars pace their way throughout with a stripped back bridge evoking more emotion than any band worth their salt would want to provoke through words alone.
What’s even better than the great intro to Modern Baseball’s debut record? A “re-do” of it, using the exact same introductory lines, layering the instrumentals and further adding to the song’s structure until it becomes the epitome of adolescence and maturation. Low self-esteem, depression, relationship problems and attitudes towards young adults makes this the meatiest track not only in terms of what it has to say but how it says it. Somehow, there’s one track that tops this…
There’s a good reason why the band consistently finish their sets with this track. Lukens often serves as Modern Baseball’s main source of depression, something this list has shown so far and Your Graduation explores this in a different way than usual, pondering how this condition can be brought on more than just internally as he struggles with change and the acceptance of it.
Call it a casual move to rank this as the band’s best song but considering how varied the song gets, going from typical angsty emo to a near hip hop level of flow in the second verse, Your Graduation sprawls into not only the best track of the band’s career but one of the best this decade has to offer.
As we bid farewell to the first half of the year and set out for a new batch of high quality albums and singles, now is a better time than any to have a little retrospective on what we experienced or, better yet, enjoyed between January and July of 2016. Of course there are plenty that I’ve missed out and it goes without saying that these are personal choices so if there’s any albums that I’ve missed out that you’ve loved, chances are I’ve either not listened to it or just didn’t enjoy it as much as you. With that being said, in no particular order, let’s get on with it…
David Bowie – ★(Blackstar)
Blackstar is a special album for an array of reasons: it was Bowie’s first no.1 album in America as well as being his 25th album. Seen by many, including producer Tony Visconti, as a parting gift to fans before his untimely death, Bowie managed to make art even when fighting for his life. Inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 record To Pimp A Butterfly, Blackstar infuses jazz as well as elements of hip hop and rock to make an album that’s not only worth a listen but one that does the late king of, well, music justice.
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
Modern Baseball have always had a healthy heaping of heart with their witty pop punk sound and Holy Ghost doesn’t stray away from this. Jake Ewald has suffered the loss of a family member and Brendan Lukens has undergone rehabilitation with both artists getting their own halves to experiment and create their own unique music that fuses effortlessly with one another. Holy Ghost further solidifies Modern Baseball as a band to be recognised as well as one to be feared, despite how much they may be scared themselves.
A Moon Shaped Pool manages to leave a positive imprint on the listener’s mind after every playthrough. Swapping out paramount guitars with ambient keyboard sounds and creating this irresistible, distinct sound makes it clear that you may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks but Radiohead will certainly lead the class.
Starting its life off as a mess, The Life Of Pablo has slowly evolved since to become a worthy addition to the ever egotistic Kanye West’s discography. Featuring some of the man’s most adrenaline pumping tunes as well as some introspective gems, TLOP managed to take itself just serious enough without forgetting to have a bit of fun in the meantime.
With Bottomless Pit, Death Grips have managed to cross past successes with their own creative wit to deliver what is without the long awaited evolution of one of the most exciting acts of the 21st century. Displaying the accessibility of The Money Store, the punk influences of Ex Military and the utter craziness of The Powers That B, Death Grips can’t seem to falter on their golden run.
2015 belonged to Kendrick Lamar. In a year full of police brutality and heated politics, To Pimp A Butterfly stood out as the jazz drenched perspective of a man from Compton who has witnessed both, an album that even now I’m struggling to put into words. Untitled Unmastered is very much an extension of what made Lamar’s last record so great, acting like a sweet piece of musical DLC and managing to stand out on its own merits.
While there may be a criticism from those who feel like some songs rely heavily on framework that the band have established and used for decades, The White Album undeniably feels like the record that Weezer have been leading up to for years. It won’t go down in history for redefining a genre but such an ambitious feat is one that is stumbled upon rather than sought after. The nerdiness is even more introverted, the romance even more anxious and fleshed out than before, and the grunge pop sound even more satisfying. You can shout it from the rooftops: Weezer are back and better than ever.
It’s an achievement in itself for an artist to still be evolving eight albums into their discography but what’s even more commendable about Ty Segall is how he still manages to sound just as refreshing as ever on his latest LP. Emotional Mugger may have fell under the radars of many but with its garage and noise rock aesthetic worn on its sleeve, it’s definitely an LP worth a listen to.
Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
“Blessings keep falling on my lap” Chance The Rapper wistfully chimes and he couldn’t put it any better on his first proper foyer into mainstream territory. Acid Rap blew up and got him a shit-load of attention which he hasn’t let go to waste with Coloring Book, a bombastic release that reinforces Chance’s status as one of, if not the most important rapper in hip hop alongside Kendrick Lamar. In a year that has had albums dropped by some of the biggest names in the industry, it’s nothing short of a surprise to have Chance deliver the best hip hop album of the year as well as providing one of the best releases of the decade so far. Chance has a sniper level of accuracy to execute exactly what he sets out to achieve. Alert everyone: we’re living in the golden age of Hip Hop.
PUP – The Dream Is Over
Although the band have stated that their name stands for “Pathetic Use Of Potential”,PUP have managed to build upon the strong foundations of their debut LP and hone all of their anger and punk influence into one of the most solid records of the year. In the band’s own words, The Dream Is Over is a “rowdy, noisy clusterfuck” and while it may hark to a low point in their personal lives, this visceral record highlights an act who, health warnings or not, are unstoppable.
A well-documented obstacle in the music industry is the dreaded second-album and after listening to any great debut album, it is often hard to wonder anything other than if it can be matched, never mind improved on. However for me, there is an even greater pressure on a band’s third album, the album that will truly finalise what they are and how they will be perceived.
Modern Baseball, on their first two albums, produced endlessly fun and witty pop-punk music, and proved to be a valuable addition to the invigorated genre along with the likes of Neck Deep and The Front Bottoms. By releasing a third similar album that was just as strong they would have still undoubtedly cemented themselves as one of the leading bands in the genre, but to the great delight of any fan of the genre and the band itself, they had no intention of playing it safe.
The growth Modern Baseball display on Holy Ghost resonates similarly to the way FIDLAR’s sophomore album Too did last year. Whilst not completely reinventing themselves as a band, the album shows a natural growth in their outlook on their previous themes and makes for much more rewarding material, giving the album a wealth of personality and warmth. Similarly to Too, Holy Ghost might not be as instantly satisfying as their previous albums and may not contain crowd pleasing anthems such as Your Graduation from 2014’s You’re Gonna Miss It All, but is undoubtedly their most substantial record and their best work yet.
Of course, no one can conjure up depth into their songwriting from nowhere and Modern Baseball’s two frontmen, Jake Ewald and Brendan Lukens, have had no shortage of the kind of experiences that can lead to an album as personal as Holy Ghost. Since You’re Gonna Miss It All, Ewald has suffered the loss of a family member and Lukens has undergone rehabilitation and both through their lyrics have had to do a fair amount of growing up from their angsty songs about girls and being awkward.
Due to the fact both of the bands writers have very different themes to convey, they made a conscious decision to split the album in two, with Ewald’s half consisting of the first six songs whilst Lukens penned the final five. Thankfully, their bond as band members and friends causes the two halves to blend effortlessly and again helps to make this a very heartfelt and personal record.
Ewald’s half begins with the title track Holy Ghost which sets the tone for the deeper ideas and concepts that he develops over the duration of his tracks about dealing with the loss and the realisation of how important it is to value personal relationships of any kind. His lyrics on this album warm us to him because of his honesty. An example of this is on album highlight Note to Self where Ewald admittedly comments on his own lyrics “Words just whining, every fucking day, What do I really want to say?”. This idea of striving to be open through his art is a strong theme throughout his half and shines greatest when paired with his trademark observations of his and others behaviours such as on Hiding, a song about reflecting on personal growth which once again demonstrates Modern Baseball’s growth as a band.
Whilst Ewald’s half relies heavily on self-exploitation and nostalgia, Lukens leans more towards outright emotion and brutal honesty with himself. Consisting mostly of shorter, angrier tracks Lukens faces his issues with aggression and his half has a natural progression to it, from frustration to realisation. Breathing in Stereo outlines the negative effects touring had on Lukens and how he allowed it to damage his relationships however it has a more mature outlook on this than it would had this song been on their previous albums.
The next two songs build on his development and realisation of how to overcome his problems until album closerJust Another Face which is a triumphant victory song that serves as a fitting summary of the album, that Modern Baseball won’t let personal issues define them. Instead they will use their position to help them develop as people. This is the overall theme of Holy Ghost and draws us closer to Modern Baseball, reminding us that they are people too and makes this a very emotive and resonant record.
So with their third album, Modern Baseball have transitioned into a new phase of their career with an important release and have doubt set the bar for future albums of the genre. Holy Ghost is an important album without trying to be, it’s just two guys talking to their fans, which makes it incredibly likeable and their most satisfying album so far.
Pennsylvanian emo, punk rock act Modern Baseball showcase new material from their forthcoming album
Back in the 90’s, pop punk was fairly content in delivering jokes about fucking mums, getting drunk and farts, perfectly accompanying any and every party you could ever attend due to its catchiness and simplicity that made it accessible to pretty much everyone. After a while though, the same acts who made the genre what it is got sick of it and in turn wanted to move on to better things: blink-182’s best album so happens to be their self titled release, their first non pop punk LP.
As the army of screaming teens will tell you though, pop punk isn’t dead and in fact has went through a sort of second wind. While we may have our goofy acts like blink-182, they are self aware to the fact that they are exactly that. With that comes another breed of acts who thrive on the loneliness, inner conflict and anxiety life throws at you: that’s where Modern Baseball come in.
Coming off the back of their well received sophomore record You’re Gonna Miss It All, Modern Baseball have spent 2015 recording their upcoming LP Holy Ghost, most likely listening to Weezer and crying in the process. Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind, released alongside Everyday to promote Holy Ghost, carries on the same tales of heartbreak that we’ve expected to see from the band and we find this out from the get go with a query about “did you ever love me” from a very forward Brendan Lukens.
Lasting just under two minutes, this track perfectly addresses trust or the lack thereof when it comes to relationships. In Lukens’ own words;
Trust is something every growing relationship needs. Without trust, all your conversations are just questions and doubts. I lost my best friend and partner, and didn’t know who to blame. “Apple” is a toast to looking at past mistakes as a chance to move forward.
Lines like “truth’s betrayal, I find it in the heat of the moment” paint the picture of this topic of trust being between Lukens and someone quite personal though it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for this to be him talking to himself like he did on The Waterboy Returns.
Lukens has never been afraid to discuss his battle with depression and certain bits on this song like “I wish I felt the same way I did then” hark back to Fine, Great off the band’s last LP where Lukens addressed that all his problems are based off what has happened to him in his past. On this track, it seems like Lukens and co. have endured their grief and denial and are now onto accepting the now.
With what has been provided so far, there will definitely be more than a few smiles.
When I attempted, and failed, to make my series Blink (Clyro) And You’ll Miss It into a monthly thing, I kinda fucked it up. Despite being one of my most popular posts, there was something about it that just didn’t sit with me right, like the potential it had just wasn’t being used. Now after a few months of procrastination careful thinking, I’ve brought it back! *insert one person clapping*
Not only will BCAYMI (see, it just rolls off the tongue) cover music but it’ll also feature film, TV and gaming content that means you’ll constantly be in the loop. Think of it as a smaller, less indie NME except my head isn’t lodged up Arctic Monkey’s arse and people don’t write bitchy tweets about me. Well, as far as I know.
Featured Artist Of The Month
To quote the world renown author Me, Glasgow trio Codist’s sound is like “if you put Biffy Clyro’s gritty, stripped back tone from Blackened Sky in a blender with Weezer during their blue album era”, not a small compliment for someone with half of one of those band’s name in their website name. With Chris Curry now joining the band to raise the number of members to 4, it’s exciting to see how the band will shape their sound of their upcoming album in addition to their upcoming gig at Glasgow’s The Hug And Pint this December. Codist 2.0, here we go.
If their Sophomore album You’re Gonna Miss It All was about being in denial about your problems then Philadelphia based band Modern Baseball’s new track is about admitting these issues and trying to move on from them. Full of sombre, personal lyrics, Brendan Lukens’ trademark nasally vocal style has never sounded so good.
2. Weezer – Do You Wanna Get High
Returning from the critical acclaim of their 2014 release Everything Will Be Alright In The End with a sound more reminiscent of their Pinkerton days, Weezer bring the crunchy guitars and ridiculously good lyrics the band built their name on.
3. Aphex Twin – avril altdelay
With Avril 14th being one of British electronic musician Richard D James’ most famous tracks, it was only a matter of time until he revamped his iconic song which has only made it even more pleasant. It won’t be long until Kanye begs for the chance to sample this again.
4. Chance The Rapper – Angels
Since the release of his second mixtape Acid Rap, Chicago born rapper Chance The Rapper has collaborated with the likes of James Blake and Donald Glover. Now he’s got fans in a frenzy as he teases his third mixtape and Angels hasn’t dampened their spirits, full of references to Kanye West and gospel hooks, this track is not only a homage to Chicago but a testament to the potential Chance has.
5. Guy Garvey – Angela’s Eyes
Owning one of the finest voices music has ever witnessed, Elbow frontman Guy Garvey has released his first solo album to showcase his remarkable vocals and new found sound. While not unfamiliar, there’s enough changes to justify a release and Angela’s Eyes is an excellent example of this.
Album of the Month
Grimes – Art Angels
November is a huge month for female artists with the great return of pop powerhouse Adele returning with her third album 25 and the likes of Drake collaborator Tinashe and *shudder* Ellie Goulding, girl power is very much in the air. November is also huge in terms of the return of an electronic wizard: Grimes.
Her unusual yet pleasing style of vocals and synths are ones that just shouldn’t work yet every time they just seem to get better and better. Thankfully the same can be said about tracks off her upcoming follow up to 2012’s Visions as EDM influenced Realiti and the catchy Flesh without Blood are comforting proof that even with the lack of substance abuse on this release, the canadian artist can still deliver.
(P.S bonus points for that amazing japanese inspired artwork, which perfectly captures the atypical nature of Grimes.)
Bring Me The Horizon @ Edinburgh Corn Exchange – 25th November | Sold Out
Frank Turner @ Barrowlands – Friday 13th November | Sold Out
Justin Bieber – Purpose (13th November)
Adele – 25 (20th November)
Rustie – EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE (OUT NOW)
Bob Dylan – The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Volume 12 (November 6th)
Film + TV
Film of the Month
The Good Dinosaur Released: 27th November
Yes, I’ll look like a big waine for choosing this over Spectre but bare with me. Since Spectre was released last month and has been praised to no end (which it totally deserves) , I thought I’d go for a film that’s actually released this month and what better than Pixar’s next film. The Good Dinosaur is about an alternate timeline where the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs narrowly missed, meaning that the giant creatures still exist. What follows is the tale of Arlo as he suffers a major loss (not hard to guess what happens, it’s Pixar after all) and tries to find his way back home.
This film has a chance to fail as it seems like it’ll be cliched and it’s directed by someone who’s only ever been behind the camera one times: for a Pixar short. However, it also has the opportunity to surprise everyone and become what the incredibles was to superhero films. In addition to this, the film has already been praised for its photorealistic visuals, meaning regardless if the film’s a flop, it’ll be a beautiful one. Who knows what will happen but regardless if it’s bad or fantastic, I’ll be there to see it.
TV Show of The Month
Starts: 11th November
What else was it going to be? Ranking alongside The Inbetweeners for being one of the most quotable British comedies of all time, Peep Show has kept us waiting in anticipation for 3 years for what is now the show’s last season. To avoid giving anything away to those who have avoided all previews and interviews, the ninth season will consist of “Mark trying to sell a loan to a gullible idiot while Jeremy is living in a bath”. The premise alone sounds hilarious and it’ll be worth it alone to see Mark, Jeremy and Super Hans for the last time before they fade away into Channel 4 fame. With this and Catastrophe, Channel 4 can rightfully call itself the home of Comedy.
Will it be worth the wait? No idea. Will it be quoted relentlessly by hundreds of users on Twitter? You bet yer arse.
Game of the Month
Released: 10th November
In a month full of blockbuster game releases, Bethesda have their work cut out for them. Not only are they up against two juggernaut FPS going by the names Star Wars Battlefront & Call of Duty but there’s also the return of both Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Are they worried? Of course not.
Regardless if this game flops like a fish out of water, millions of gamers will still pick up Fallout 4 because, well, it’s Fallout. It’s an immersive post apocalyptic wasteland, full of radiation inflicted monsters and other humans just as desperate as yourself for supplies, safety and, most importantly, power. Its predecessor, unsurprisingly called Fallout 3, is one of my favourite games of all time and the sound of returning to the franchise with better graphics, more customisation and even greater gameplay, is too good to pass up. If you pick up one game this month, make it this.
Cheers for sticking all the way to the end and I hope you enjoyed what I hope to be a regular thing! Any feedback is more than welcome and if you have any suggestions, whether it be a new track you think deserves more attention or you’re part of an up and coming band who want an opportunity to get their name out there then email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the past two months BLINKCLYRO has accumulated over 2,000 views and I couldn’t be more thankful for that! Here’s hoping I can keep you lot entertained for the rest of 2015 and beyond, perhaps even venture into different outlets *nudge* *nudge* *wink* *wink* . You can follow me on Twitter @blinkclyro and over on my facebook page here. What follows is a wee schedule of what you can expect from the site this month!
Life Is Strange review – Sunday 8th November
Bloc Party gig review – Tuesday 10th November
Frank Turner – Saturday 14th November
First week with Fallout 4 (sort of review) – Tuesday 17th November
Slaves gig review – Friday 20th November
Bring Me The Horizon gig review – Thursday 26th November
+ even more tbc!!!!