Jake Ewald Becomes A Girl (On “Monsters”)
Most know Philadelphian Jake Ewald as half of Modern Baseball’s songwriting team. It’s how I’m familiar with him. He works with Brendan Lukens to craft some of the most personal and relatable music in today’s indie scene. Modern Baseball is perhaps my favorite band, but, full disclosure: I’ve always liked Lukens’ writing a bit more. That is, until Holy Ghost, where Ewald’s opening half seemed to anchor the album, in contrast to Lukens’ more wandering, emotive songs on the latter half. “Wedding Singer,” “Note To Self,” and “Mass” stole the show, and “Hiding” serves as the most well-written song in the band’s steadily growing discography.
It’s interesting, then, that a writer blossoming in the art of heart-spilling lyricism and self-awarness would go out of his way to put himself in someone else’s shoes. That’s exactly what Ewald has done on “Monsters,” the first single from a side project he’s calling Slaughter Beach, Dog. (Those interested in tracing the project’s footsteps back to the demo phase can check Bandcamp.)
The song features Ewald placing himself in the shoes of a 22-year-old girl living at home. “I am the girl that I thought I outgrew,” he sings. He imagines a struggle with privacy at an age where most people have their independence. “Still speaking in a whisper on the phone,” he laments.
When I heard Holy Ghost, I marveled at the specificity. Modern Baseball––and Ewald in particular––did an incredible job of drawing listeners into their detailed world. Getting particular and noting a location “Five blocks from Tasker-Morris Station” is the kind of detail that pays dividends for listeners. In a song that places Ewald in the shoes of a stranger, it’s easy to imagine those kinds of sharp details would be lost, but that’s not the case. “There are monsters everywhere I turn … I see them now in my brother’s passing. I see them now in my father’s abscence.” Either this song is based on a true story, or Ewald has the finer details of his invented word pinned down pretty well.
I’d have to agree with Frank Ocean’s sentiment here. I suppose it makes sense that a talented songwriter should be able to write about more than just himself, but it doesn’t mean I’m less impressed that Ewald seems to have effectively written about the struggles of an imaginary character.
The Slaughter Beach, Dog album, named Welcome, releases September 30 and officially has my attention if it’s going to be a space where Ewald can flex his writing muscles like he’s done on “Monsters.”