Review Summary: “For the next record, do you wanna do a Speakerboxxx/Love Below?”
Who knew the emo/pop-punk band Modern Baseball would attempt to pull off an Outkast with their third studio album, Holy Ghost
" Granted, Brandon and Jake decided to split up their halves of the album into a respectable 6 and 5 songs instead of OutKast’s impressive double LP. Still, the near-even split of songwriting duties and vocal responsibilities between the two lead singers makes the listening experience more than intriguing.
Jake’s side begins with the haunting opener ‘Holy Ghost’ that almost seems to tease what’s to come on the album. The fleeting melody builds to a drawn out ending filled with feedback and tension and is immediately resolved by the bouncy guitar riff from ‘Wedding Singer’. As the first few tracks progress, the hinted developed maturity seen in The Perfect Cast
fully breaks through due to Jake’s songwriting abilities. The song structures are tighter and the lyrics are more focused and poignant, as Jake sings about distinct, personal memories. Tracks like ‘Mass’ call out the names of “ruthless” waitresses and “Valero bathrooms”, yet despite how particular and precise these anecdotes are, they embody a sense of universal despair and longing, a theme quite common throughout the album. Most songs are tinged with a sense of yearning, yet all find themselves to be clean-sounding tunes with elements of pop punk and indie rock.
As the impressive acoustic to full band track ‘Hiding’ ends, Brandon’s half of the album begins with an immediate sense of angst, anger, and sloppiness. Drawing from some punk influences with the short song lengths, up-tempo beats, and punchy, distorted guitars, Brandon’s side reveals that it is a much different beast than Jake’s. Songs like ‘Breathing in Stereo’ and ‘’What If…” display Lukens’s desperation and despair front and center, as Brandon himself clumsily spills his guts about depression and uncertainties. Brandon confesses, “I don’t know what I’m doing anymore” and “I’m lost, forlorn I can’t do this alone. Alone, I feel safe” on both tracks. There is a bitter sense of hopelessness present throughout this half of the album, as almost every song fully embraces dark themes head on with no sense of shame.
The two halves prove to be connected in a way, as many themes and ideas carry through in the lyrics and melodies. However, musically, the separate halves are much like the before and after results of running home in the rain. In the first state, you’re fresh and tinged with excitement for the task ahead, yet you still have a sense of resentment towards the dark, unforgiving weather. This contrasts the soggy, messy state you’re in as you step inside, yet it shares the bitterness your past-self held for the weather in an intensified fashion. The contrast, although somewhat disruptive to the overall flow of the album, works in a strange, beautiful way.
No song connects the entire album in a better way than Lukens’s closer “Just Another Face”, which is his longest song by almost 2 minutes. It proves to also be his tightest song and the best on the entire album, as he holds back the fast paced tempo and restrains his brooding guitar for the poignant and pessimistic lyrics “I’m a waste of time and space”. The anticipated yet satisfying explosion of the choruses perfectly caps off the album. Holy Ghost
is a mature departure from the witty Sports
and the charming yet refined You’re Gonna Miss it All
. With Modern Baseball’s third LP, they prove that it’s still possible to convey loneliness and desperation in an exciting and, at times, catchy manner.