Album: At the Moonbase
Artist: Slaughter Beach, Dog
Label: Lame-O Records
Non-Airable Tracks: My Girl
At the Moonbase is the fourth studio album by Philadelphia indie rock outfit Slaughter Beach, Dog, a project fronted by Jake Ewald of Modern Baseball. Having loved the group’s previous release Safe and Also No Fear, I was eager to give this new record a listen. I am certainly glad I did; it has been a long time since I've heard an album that resonated with me as much as At the Moonbase has.
The arrangements on At the Moonbase are more complex than 2019'sSafe and also No Fear, which was not incredibly musically diverse and mostly stuck to the traditional rock sound of guitar, drums and bass. Guitar (both acoustic and electric), bass, and drums are still the foundation of At the Moonbase, but this new album also makes use of driving drum beats, ambient synth, jaunty piano, and even some Americana-tinged saxophone that feels reminiscent of Springsteen. The vocals are half spoken, half sung, sometimes following a simple melody, and sometimes quickly rambling off more poetic lines. They are raw and unaltered, emphasizing the emotions of the lyrics and contrasting well with the melodic and complex instrumentation. The different aspects of the album come together to create a work that is varied yet coherent, with an atmosphere of bittersweet hope.
While the instrumentation of At the Moonbase is pretty, if a little repetitive at times, the strongest point of the album is undeniably the lyrics. Jake Ewald's songwriting always impresses me with its ability to take images of the mundane and melancholy and turn them into something heart-wrenchingly beautiful. At the Moonbase does not disappoint in this regard. Its lyrics paint snapshots of moments ranging from idyllic trips to the beach with a lover to philosophical discussions in pretentious bars to the decrepit sanctuary of club bathrooms during a show. The descriptions are romanticized yet vivid and real, making me feel nostalgic for experiences I’ve never had and places I’ve never been. The song that stood out to me the most, lyrically and musically, was the closing track, "Notes From a Brief Engagement (At the Boot & Saddle)" which starts from the point of view of a musician playing a show and evolves into a poetically romantic ode to a loved one as the music swells. Nearly a year into the global pandemic, I often feel that I have almost forgotten what it is like to exist outside of my bedroom and my occasional trips to grocery stores. But this album reminded me what it was like to be out there in the world, experiencing the simple miracles of existence like chance meetings in coffee shops and crowded, ear-shattering punk rock shows.
At the Moonbase is a gorgeous album, one that I will keep listening to for a long time. I highly recommend it to anyone who's a fan of emotional, down-to-earth indie rock or who just wants to feel something during these strange, monotonous times.
Do You Understand (What Has Happened to You)
Notes From a Brief Engagement (at the Boot & Saddle)
Reviewer’s Name: Ruby Fulford
Date of Review: February 5, 2021