As stunningly emotional as it is musical, Modern Baseball have produced a phenomenal third album. It's gonna be tough to top this.
Holy Ghost is the third studio album from Philadelphia based emo/punk rockers Modern Baseball. Written in an A-side/B-side format with guitarist Jake Ewald writing the first six songs of the 11 track album, and Brendan Lukens penning the remaining five in the latter half, bassist Ian Farmer and drummer Sean Huber wrote their own parts for the first time too. As stated in interviews and their recent documentary, Tripping in the Dark, the album is an outlet and journal of sorts for the band, all centred on the two years which have passed since the release of their sophomore record You’re Gonna Miss It All and the huge success and increase in popularity it has since brought them. This period has included numerous highs for the band, but also some crushing and devastating lows, and the guys aren’t afraid to tap into this on the record.
The titular opening track is a minute long acoustic piece, a haunting and somber opening to the album. Here Jake uses the Holy Ghost as a metaphor for his recently deceased grandfather and how he still feels like he’s there for his family, “But this time my holy ghost is hovering over me”. It’s a wonderful track, especially given the context. ‘Wedding Singer’ is a much more uplifting song musically, fitting in with the dance-y and upbeat punk tunes that the band have produced in the past, whilst continuing on from ‘Holy Ghost”s analogy – “Midnight rolls around, I thought you heard me sing your spirit’s sound. But you turned in early, left the TV flickering its staged romance across your face”. It’s a fantastic song, one which is just as endearing as what the band have produced in the past.
Previously released track ‘Everyday’ is arguably the highlight of Jake’s part. It’s yet another musically more upbeat song but with some emotive lyrics, in particular the song’s outro – “Waking up everyday is all about doing things you don’t want to do. But you’re rewarded, you get to wake up”. It’s the complete package of a song. Jake’s half is very strong and sets the tone for the album nicely, allowing us to grow into it and become accustomed to what we should expect.
Brendan’s half starts excellently with ‘Coding These to Lukens’, giving us a glimpse into what is to come for this part of the album: most notably a reflection upon Lukens’ recent mental struggles, which is well documented in Tripping in the Dark. The infectious riff work and crashing drums create a great sound which, slightly, masks the melancholy lyrics. ‘Breathing in Stereo’ is very similar to ‘Wedding Singer’ and is a great punk anthem for the band to add to their repertoire. It shifts in pace and tone, going from frantic to calm in an instant, and really showcases the band’s musical capabilities. Another of the previously released tracks, ‘Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind’, sees the band adapt a sound and vibe with clear influences from both The Killers and The Cure, for a fantastic two minute track.
As cliché as it may sound, the band save the best for last. Closing track ‘Just Another Face’ is both lyrically and musically the best song on the album. The verses are built upon Ian’s bass and Sean’s drums with Brendan’s melancholy lyrics over the top – “I’m a waste of time and space, drifting through my selfish ways” – it creates a very stripped back and raw sound. The whole band crescendos in for the explosive and incredibly emotional chorus, as Brendan cries out “If it’s all the same, it’s time to confront this face to face / I’ll be with you the whole way, it’ll take time, that’s fact”. You can feel every visceral emotion being poured into this song. Add in the fact that Brendan almost committed suicide last year before the band discovered his difficulties and the group came together to help him get through his depression and rehab, this becomes a much more powerful and cathartic track than one could ever realise. The song is sure to become an emo/punk anthem for the ages, it’s quite phenomenal.
Holy Ghost is a complete triumph for the band. Both at once, this is their Dookie and their Blink-182; it announces them to the world, it shows just how strong a grasp they have on their songwriting abilities and it showcases an incredible sense of progression and maturity in their sound. It’s one of the finest albums of the year so far and undeniably the most emotionally devastating.
Modern Baseball have arrived and they are here to stay.
Holy Ghost is out now via Run For Cover.