A coming of age album for those who’ve grown up on a diet of Modern Baseball.
Label: Big Scary Monsters
Released: 27th October 2017
With Modern Baseball taking a well-deserved break, there’s still a creative itch to scratch for Jake Ewald. Step forward the introspective, storytelling charm of Slaughter Beach, Dog, and the delightful ‘Birdie’, a homespun masterclass in minimalism that should still appeal to those who miss the day job.
What’s most noticeable is just how closely ‘Birdie’ treads to the recent output from John K. Samson. Ewald has often spoken about his admiration for the Weakerthans songwriter, yet, when everything’s just stripped back to an acoustic guitar and some simple percussion, you can see the two artists share a similar eye for detail, and both possess a comparable storytelling style. Crucially, however, while there are some amazingly-realised vignettes on ‘Birdie’, it never feels like a work of hero worship. ‘Pretty Okay’, for example, rivals Samson’s ‘Fellow Traveller’ in terms of smart and witty lyricism, even if the topic is a world away from Samson’s secret agents. Instead, Ewald focuses on grounded characters and kitchen-sink dramas, making ‘Birdie’ real and relatable.
Some of these moments are wonderfully vivid; the neighbourhood and bar in ‘Buttercup’, or the school bus in ‘Shapes I Know’ are beautifully narrated, enjoying a scope that is cinematically striking. Against the sparse arrangements, Ewald’s lyrics are given a chance to breathe, making for an intimate experience.
Consequently, ‘Birdie’ is a coming of age album for those who’ve grown up on a diet of Modern Baseball. It’s an album of depth and subtlety, yet still wears its heart, unashamedly, on its sleeve. Rob Mair