Album Review: Slaughter Beach, Dog – ‘Safe and Also No Fear’
Posted: by The Editor
Jake Ewald has always had a knack for doing what so many artists struggle with their entire career- presenting emotion. Perhaps it’s something in the rawness of his voice and vocal cracks as you flip on a Slaughter Beach, Dog song, or, maybe, it’s the nostalgia he effortlessly radiates that has a universal pull. Either way, Ewald evokes feelings out of his listeners that is rarely felt, so heavily, through other musicians’ work.
On his third LP, Safe and Also No Fear, Ewald has only amplified that talent by creating his most personable record to date. On first listen, Ewald transports his audience straight into his world as he narrates the ups, downs, and melancholic reflections that brought this album to life. Almost like magic, Safe and Also No Fear feels like a night drive without a destination, Jake Ewald in the passenger seat beside you. You’re watching the traffic lights as he vents about his life, a safe space that helps you feel more comfortable opening up your own chest. It brings a fuzzy sense of nostalgia like you’ve both been close friends for years, using this drive to catch-up and remininsce. Simple yet comforting.
At its origin, Safe and Also No Fear shines with fragile folk melodies laid underneath a bittersweet acceptance of fading youth and adapting to the harsher truths of adulthood. In classic Slaughter Beach, Dog fashion, Ewald reflects on his own existence and the state of the world in a way that comes across as a casual conversation between listener and artist. Ewald bears his soul through some of the gloomiest lyrics of his career, yet it’s hard to immediately place as he masks the pain with purposely bright musicality- almost like he’s making dead-pan comments to a friend, flippantly downplaying how he’s feeling under the surface.
The record opens with “One Down,” a clear journal-entry referencing his life with a cold-sober realization. The track begins, faintly, with an acoustic guitar as he details his every day routine, voice acting as the sole story-teller before other instruments greet him towards the end of the song. The entirety of “One Down” is meant to be tender, introducing the listener to the vulnerability and rawful approach of the project.
“One Day” acts as a personal affirmation to be better in all aspects of life. Reeling with existentialism, Ewald reflects on his youth and lifestyle before expressing the person he wishes to become as he grows older. Lyrics like, “One day you’ll be good. You won’t know why it scared you. You’ll act just like you should. You’ll fix that awful hairdo… Anyday now” are sung overtop dazzling guitars and a heavy drumbeat.
The poppiest song on the record, though, “Heart Attack” might have one of the sadder themes hidden behind its sunny and playful outer-layer. It follows the sinking feeling of leaving someone a message and hoping (or begging) for any response, a bumble of painfully waiting. Again, it’s in Ewald’s ability to make light of himself and his hurt that is a blessing and a curse as the listener must really dissect the lyrics from the brightest of his songs.
As one flips through Slaughter Beach, Dog’s third record, Safe and Also No Fear, it’s obvious that every song on the album has to be carefully listened to and understood. The words and beauty that sits behind a lot of the tunes are worth sifting through, and as Ewald sits down to discuss the heaviness of his chest, you’ll find nuggets of comfort and similarity that’ll bring you closer to him and how his mind sorts through his problems. This is especially relevant when the album gets to “Black Oak-” a song that follows a particular narration unlike anything Ewald has presented before. The first half of the song is completely spoken-word as a simple instrumentation of a guitar and drum beat help document a dark and interesting story about being dared to ingest objects like refrigerator magnets and a watch only to throw them up on the sidewalk. He realizes the magnets spell out the name of a lover which prompts him to go searching for her. Without giving too much away, the fascinating story comes to a shocking end as the last half of the song gives way to beautiful sounds and quiet voices. Ewald’s talents of creating abstract characters worth following throughout a 7-minute track is something exciting that could be finessed in future works.
All in all, Slaughter Beach Dog’s Safe and Also No Fear taps into the lyrical prowess of Jake Ewald’s mind. As the last track fades, the listener has learned how he processes his present, past, and future. Proving to be an album with the most growth and personal insights of Ewald’s in his solo career, he absolutely nails the balanced theme of cracked youth and impending adulthood. Slaughter Beach, Dog is a project that has never tried to be anything other than a raw exposé of life, and this third record has done nothing but show how vulnerability can transfer over into some of the best art.
Disappointing / Average / Good/ Great / Phenomenal
Hope Ankley / @Hope_ankleknee
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