Dizzying and humble from first note to last, there is nothing stopping Slaughter Beach, Dog from becoming one of the industry’s most adored artists.
Jake Ewald is stepping back into the spotlight with a fresh and mature sound after two years away from the studio. Slaughter Beach, Dog first came about as a result of writer’s block while Ewald was writing the hugely successful Holy Ghost with his other band, Modern Baseball, and was designed to help him develop a different style of songwriting. What is on offer from his latest release is evidence that this project has not only been a huge success but has a lot to offer to fans of the indie-folk genre.
The album opens with single One Down. For the listener, this introduction to Safe And Also No Fear is comfortable, soft and almost familiar. The lyrics are inviting and make you want to explore the dizzying, introverted narrative Ewald is painting. Among the strongest on the record, lines such as ‘I play the game, I go out and live it up’ are blissfully simple, yet every single one adds another relatable layer to the character being described.
It is apparent, from just one minute into the record, that by adding Ian Farmer (Modern Baseball), Nick Harris (All Dogs) and Zack Robbins (Superheaven) to the fold for this album, that the full-bodied production is sure to be well-received by fans. Rich in sound, this song has a fuselage about it that Slaughter Beach, Dog’s Lame-O and Birdie have – in parts – felt to lack. The accompaniment of the band means the simple stories being told can flourish, allowing the listener to sway in and out of the music and experience moments that they can totally relate to, and produce other where the obscurity gives them a minute to think.
One hundred million years lit up and turned to dust
The beauty of Safe And Also No Fear is that it continually produces juxtaposing emotions; one minute calm and comfortable, the next lost and soaring. Building on the aura left behind by One Down, the likes of Map of the Stars and Dogs follow a similarly diverse blueprint.
Dogs is one of the highlights of the album. The imagery provided by lyrics such as “now the dogs are awake, and the wind sweeps down my street, and the world feels cold and clean” seems effortless but really build a world in the head of those listening. What’s more, the melody of this song makes it stand out among its peers – it is so relaxed that it washes over you instantly.
However, tracks such as Good Ones shift the vibe of the release in a different direction. This song opens with a natural swing that makes you nod along long after its completion. There is a hopeful sound to this song (something that is sometimes hidden deep beneath the surface in Slaughter Beach, Dog’s music), and the introduction of new band members really add to this and help the chorus shine. The expanses of “too long” and “me down” that populate the middle sections of the tune are addictive and help to move it on nicely, while the references to the quantities of money that continually change throughout the track provide a strong narrative.
Safe And Also No Fear really does feel, in parts, to be an album of two tales, with Tangerine sounding as if it was picked from the same bunch as Good Ones. Its rhythm makes the listener want it to never end. The guitar solo, in particular, is frilly, warped and it happens in the right place, at the right time. After a couple of sombre numbers in the lineage of the album, the hopefulness of this song is a welcome respite.
Deserving of a notable mention is Heart Attack, which – once again – feels to offer long-time listeners of Slaughter Beach, Dog something slightly different. Jubilant in sound but brooding in nature, you can’t afford to be fooled by the bouncing notes and hanging organ chords when you listen carefully. Lines such as ‘hand in hand grenade, you make me weak’’ present a hurting character who is uneasy with the state of a relationship with perfect, and relatable, accuracy.
Lyrics such as these really do highlight just how talented Ewald is, no matter which of his musical outfits he creates music in. The quality on offer here is of the highest order, and this record really allows the listener to sink into it. However, while the highs are exceptional, some of the quieter numbers do feel to be hiding a little too much in the shadows but luckily, this feels to just be the start of an ever-evolving beast – and with the storytelling ability of Jake Ewald and co. there is nothing stopping them from being one of the industry’s more adored outfits.
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