Released May 13th 2016
On the whole, I discover new music the normal way. From a film soundtrack, or an advert, or in a fever dream in which I have transformed into a half man, half wolf hybrid.
I heard about Modern Baseball from the most unlikeliest of sources. NME ceased being relevant about a decade ago and has now gone beyond irrelevancy to the point where it is actually damaging the British music scene. By continuing to perpetuate the myth that bland rubbish like Bastille and The 1975 represent the UK’s most exciting bands, they are neglecting the rest of the music scene and causing stagnation.
Ranting aside, an article on NME’s website about Modern Baseball did catch my eye recently. I had never heard of the Philadelphia band until seeing the piece, entitled ‘Modern Baseball cancel all tour dates because of mental health’. As deteriorating mental health often results in the best art, I decided to check out the bands most recent album Holy Ghost and I was absolutely blown away.
The title track is a brief, ethereal and beautiful acoustic number before ‘Wedding Singer’ bursts into life. The aforementioned track is a perfect introduction to the bands lovelorn lyrics, self deprecation and melodic hooks. Imagine if Alkaline Trio, The Hold Steady and The Weakerthans formed a supergroup and then immediately had a breakdown and you are somewhere close to the sound of Holy Ghost.
The bridge from ‘Note to Self’ is a heartbreaking and unforgettable refrain in which Brendan Lukens laments ‘spewing bullshit across the stage’ and ‘words just whining’. The irony of his self disgust being laid bare on such a brilliant song is impossible to ignore and this too is a recurring theme across the album.
‘Hiding’ is a change of pace that utilizes medical and biological imagery to beg forgiveness for all that can’t be undone. In the middle of the album there are four quick fire songs one after another, all barely two minutes long. They compliment each other so much it almost sounds like a medley and the breathless closer to that sequence ‘Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind’ is particularly effective.
Epic album closer ‘Just Another Face’ is perhaps the bands finest hour and cements the album’s status as one of the best of the last five years. After one listen to Holy Ghost I was completely swept up in the world of Modern Baseball and I am currently devouring their first two albums as well.
Modern Baseball are the best band I have discovered since The Wonder Years. Well worth anybody’s time.
Track of the Week: Tom Waits – Kentucky Avenue
My current top five musical artists of all time. Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Weezer, Oasis, Alkaline Trio.
I have wanted to write something about Tom for a while but it is difficult to know where to start with such an eclectic, madcap and unique career. I was inspired to share this beautiful song after watching the excellent BBC documentary Tales from a Cracked Jukebox (if you’re quick you can still catch it on iplayer here).
The concept of having a favourite Tom Waits song is a ludicrous one but ‘Kentucky Avenue’ is certainly one of his most affecting and personal. Blue Valentine was the last album of Waits’ barfly era and while critics were proclaiming his shtick a little tired by this point, the album still contains some of his best songs. ‘Kentucky Avenue’ is perhaps the album highlight. Still astounding and beautiful nearly 40 years on.
As the T-shirt says: LISTEN TO TOM WAITS.