Review Summary: Do not fret; there is nothing about commanding animals to murder shorelines on this release.
Modern Baseball was an emo group from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With punchy instrumentals, catchy hooks, and sharp and creative lyrics, they burst onto the emo scene, winning over countless fans. After multiple releases, singer and guitarist Jake Ewald began to experience writer’s block. He had painted himself into a corner with the type of sound Modern Baseball carried. He couldn’t think and had a hard time penning new songs. So, how did he bounce back" Enter Slaughter Beach, Dog.
After a debut that still partially stuck to the general sound of Modern Baseball, Ewald tried to push his boundaries and turn in even more of a folk / indie route.
Motorcycle.jpg serves as a turning point to the aforementioned folk sound that the band is recognized for today. There is only a brief inkling at a heavier sound, this being the distorted guitar solo capping off the final song on the record.
The first thing on this EP that pops out is the lyrics. While Ewald did not write all of the lyrics on this album (with the Superweaks writing “Glowing”), the ones he does write have a very charming and fun vibe radiating off of every line. “Your Cat” ends the second verse with “I’ll make it through this if it kills me, and then when it kills me I’ll come back. Jesus would make me a disciple, or maybe he’ll let me be your cat.” While on one hand this serves as a good line to chuckle at, it also highlights how realistic and relatable Ewald’s writing is. Another example is on the song “104 Degrees,” where he sings, “She asked me what I wanted, as if one ever really knew, and I said, “Dull domestication, free from pressure to pursue another love, another touch, and another tired conversation.” Relatable and memorable lyrics litter Motorcycle.jpg, and it only helps push these tracks further into your head.
However, lyrics are nothing without the proper delivery and enunciation. While Ewald doesn’t stray far from what has been come to expect from him in this front, the execution vocally is never off-putting. While the style of singing changes from tune to tune and generally fits the genre and sound of the EP, it does leave a little bit to be desired.
Instrumentally, this is also a very sweet listen. Acoustic guitars, electric guitars, synthesizers, electric piano, bells, drums, tambourine, and bass are featured on this release, and when used properly, they create the perfect aura for Ewald’s lyrics. The instruments are spot-on on “Your Cat” and “104 Degrees.” The slide guitar is a nice touch, as well.
The mixing is fine. It’s nothing to write home about, but it does a nice job balancing each of the little details Ewald throws into these tracks. The songwriting is also fine, with “Building the Ark” serving as the farthest departure from previous projects Ewald has come out with. “104 Degrees” is a changeup of the normal song structure, but the one-chord chorus drags the song into the muck and holds it back from being a truly exceptional tune.
In the end, Ewald crafts a fun four-song EP. The biggest let down in this project is the cover song, “Glowing.” While not a complete blow-out, it takes far too long to progress into the heartfelt tune it wants to be. The bassline on “Building the Ark” takes a little long to settle in and carry the song like intended. Another underlying issue on this release is the drums. While not meant to be anything spectacular, the only purpose they serve is to push the songs along. Some neat fills could have elevated these tracks, but it is nothing more than a missed opportunity.
With solid instruments, solid lyrics, and a short runtime, Motorcycle.jpg serves as a wonderful torch-passing into more of an indie-folk sound and a worthwhile listen to fans of this genre and Ewald alike.