Slaughter Beach, Dog: At the Moonbase

At the Moonbase is the 4th studio album from the Philadelphia based folk quartet Slaughter Beach, Dog. Unlike his earlier work, Jake Ewald (of Modern Baseball fame) crafts a rather aimless picture. The carefree, gentrified ballads are inoffensive additions a vast catalogue of indie rock periodicals. At the Moonbase is timid cabaret, backed by hesitant instrumentation. Listeners are beckoned to embark on a meticulous journey of diet-folk interpretations. The impersonal, voyeuristic lyrics are remarkably distant, reading more like mad libs than actual experience. Slaughter Beach, Dog provides ample commentary from the tourist perspective, barely scratching the surface of what makes these genres compelling.

The weakest aspect of At the Moonbase seems to also be it’s selling point- lofty storytelling. However, the lethargic approach is neither dreamlike or authentic. Premeditated saxophone runs and listless rhythms enter and exit the arrangements in a predictable fashion. “Are You There” stands out with a soft, euro-pop synths. Here, Ewald paints a small, delicate image, “Why don’t you go put a record on, why don’t you sing me a little song.” Sadly, the youthful energy of this opening cut isn’t matched by the sleepy instrumentation of the rest of the record. Any sonic momentum created is eventually spoiled by the songwriter’s wordy, monotonous delivery. There’s little connective tissue between the songs themselves other than the outsider’s point of view. Ewald’s shallow, skimmed reading of Americana isn’t problematic, just painfully conventional. “Jonathan” is a dull moment of counsel. The hollow, shoegaze-inspired track is too sluggish for its own good. Late album cut, “Van Morrison” suffers for a similar reason. The somber, drawn out performance is far more melodramatic than it needs to be. The cascading notes that drive “Song For Oscar’s” is Slaughter Beach at their best and most authentic. The blend of guitar, piano and horns swirl together for ideal, dream-like textures.

Despite a few inspired moments, At the Moonbase is thinly orchestrated. “A Modern Lay” aims to be playful in its chaotic composition, but lifeless guitars and clunky choruses result in a confusing experience. Title track “At the Moonbase” is also a peculiar vaudeville creation. The distorted vocals and sleepy guitars narrate a night of music but make no notable comments about it. The same goes for the similarly whimsical “Notes From a Brief Engagement (at the Boot & Saddle)”. The first-person journey into the night, like much of the album, ultimately is a fable about nothing.

Rating: 4.6/10

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