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Album Review: Holy Ghost by Modern Baseball

At 27 minutes, Modern Baseball’s Holy Ghost certainly wastes no time in establishing the Philadelphian band as being one of the most exciting groups on the scene. Despite its brevity, Holy Ghost opens many conversations for Modern Baseball including death, depression and isolation. A long way from songs about Instagram and Twitter handles – see 2012s Sports.

Words by Tom Bull

Split into two sides for each front man, Holy Ghost is vulnerable. It’s Brendan Lukens’ and Jake Ewald’s deepest thoughts put into 2 minute tracks for us all to hear and relate to. Opening with the acoustic title song, Ewald laments the loss of his late grandfather, and sets the tone for what is a mature record by a band making a name for themselves despite the stereotypes surrounding emo music. Modern Baseball compromise between the witticisms that define You’re Going to Miss it All and a new found sense of authenticity that makes Holy Ghost a polished and riveting album. Highlights of the album come in the shape of ‘Wedding Singer’, a song that reminds us of the intensity of ‘Your Graduation’, and ‘Apple Cider I Don’t Mind’, a track steeped in The Cure influences and glam rock riffs.

Ewald sings on ‘Note to Self’ that ‘where he wants to be is a thousand miles away’ but Modern Baseball are certainly making strides towards themselves. Much like their peers in Sorority Noise, PUP and Moose Blood, Modern Baseball are changing the game with new techniques for Emo music and Holy Ghost can be the champion for this renaissance. An album caught between the past and the future in tone and musically, Holy Ghost features vulnerability and honesty that has been lost amongst emo bands in the past. Modern Baseball are an open book, with any pretence removed. For a long time emo and pop punk music has been haunted by stereotypes of fart jokes and teenage angst; by Holy Ghost is an attempt to shake of those stereotypes show progression and that is clear throughout the album. Modern Baseball appear consistent and honest but without losing the pace and infectious nature of previous outings.

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The album’s finale in the form of ‘Just another Face’ could be its finest moment, a rousing and defining anthem for those who are afraid of losing themselves. Lukens declares that his ‘a waste of time and space’ in the song’s opening line but that certainly isn’t the case, and you start to believe that Modern Baseball are something more than your run-of-the mill all white all male four piece, they are certainly not just faces.  Having cancelled several dates last year, in a recent interview with The Fader, front man Lukens confesses his mental health issues and the insecurities that plague him. ‘Just another Face’ confronts those anxieties, and does so without lying to us or himself. Holy Ghost shows a new side to emo music that offers intimacy and reliability with young men still trying to figure out who they are.

Holy Ghost does well to not completely reinvent Modern Baseball, but interweave the roots of Sports and You’re Going to Miss it All into a record that will be career defining. Consistent for 27 minutes Modern Baseball have honed in on what it is that makes listeners tick, their sarcasm and conversational tone is now paired with metaphor and lyrical prowess that shows a new angle to their song writing. ‘Breathing in Stereo’ is thrashy and energetic, and claims over chuggy guitars that Lukens is ‘not the same as he was but that’s cool whatever’ and that is certainly true, not the same but what they are now is definitely cool.

With British emo band Moose Blood preparing for the release of their new Album Blush, Canadians PUP just dropping the aptly named The Dream is Over and Sorority Noise promising new music, it certainly is an exciting time for a genre haunted by its past. For a long time this genre has been sidelined for one reason or another, but these bands are redefining it. Relatable and honest, the music being produced right now promises energy live and ambitious. Confidence in their song writing, this set of bands shouldn’t be lumped together by mere association; they are all promising young bands that are defining their future.  Modern Baseball may not have found themselves yet, but Holy Ghost is a giant leap forward for a band who haven’t forgotten their concern coffee and garlic, but are now battling personal demons. Holy Ghost is developed, consistent and truthful and worryingly good.