Slaughter Beach, Dog – Safe and Also No Fear

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

Slaughter Beach, Dog

Safe and Also No Fear - Lame-O Records (US) / Big Scary Monsters Records (EU)

Slaughter Beach, Dog, the curious side project of Modern Baseball front man Jake Ewald, has been a unique and indulgent fix.  The haunting realism of the character portraits Ewald explores in his fictitious town of Slaughter Beach is without question a rare treat.  It’s the sort of deeply personal exposition that exists in the periphery of the indie and punk scenes, and only comes along with the perfect intersection of style and passion.  Slaughter Beach, Dog sort of occupies the space that humble, introverted frontmen like John K. Samson (The Weakerthans) are willing to bring to the world outside of their main stage acts.

For his third album, Safe and Also No Fear, Ewald expands his personal bubble to include a host of backing instrumentalists including reuniting with Modern Baseball colleague Ian Farmer.  Surprisingly, the result isn’t anything bigger or bolder than with past efforts.  Instead, the soundscape is layered and lush, like a rich forest canopy playing host to a dense ecosystem.  Ewald draws upon his accompanying ensemble to accentuate details and establish atmosphere. Perhaps best exemplified by the spoken word crawler “Black Oak,” Slaughter Beach, Dog steadies the beat with an intimately moody framework born from repetitive riffs and reverberating guitar.  Lyrics take centre stage in the story of a final, intoxicated car ride and the inevitable mourning of those left behind.  As with all of Ewald’s intricate characterizations, each minute detail feels as if only experienceable by that particular individual during a specific moment.  It begs the question, has Ewald walked in each of these shoes before?

The bulk of the album is born from an acoustic soul and casual strumming.  Instrumentally, opener “One Down” builds a gradual anticipation, like a conversation that involves progressively building trust and familiarity with a new friend.  The lyrics always have that “too-much-information” to be comfortable vibe, like the friend that unloads their life story when simply asking how their day is doing. Ewald describes the inner working of one character’s anguish in descriptions of the mundane: “I live upstairs / I wash my hair / I take my meals alone inside the parlour,” following with the eyebrow raising confesion, “I get anxious and I curl up on the floor.”  Mental health plays a big part in many of Ewald’s characters and call to empathy.

Even with a generally depressive mood, Safe and Also No Fear bounds along with various tempos and emotional states.  For instance, “Tangerine” falls under the album’s more upbeat offerings, infusing a toe-tapping melody beneath the song’s acoustic and plugged in dualism.  “Heart Attack” is an entirely singable slice of indie-pop, whereas “Anything” straddles the line between poetic spoken word and breezy coffeehouse number. The evolving sense of temperament mirrors the characters at the heart of each song’s self contained personality.

With Slaughter Beach, Dog’s third album, Ewald continues to march to the beat of his own drum, exploring emotional characterizations of life and experience in his fictitious town with detail and nuance.  It’s the type of experience that forces you to confront the realities of individuals you may not normally afford the time to think about during your busy daily schedule. Themes of struggle and resilience shine through the unavoidable tragedy inherent in each scenario, making Safe and Also No Fear an experience worth returning to again and again.