Whilst the New Zealand music scene is no doubt expanding at an extraordinary rate, alternative rock band Modern Baseball remain, for the most part, under the radar on our little island. Fresh off a world tour that made a brief stop in Australia in April, the band has just dropped their latest release – Holy Ghost.
Their first release since 2014’s You’re Gonna Miss It All, this record provides an in depth tell all to the point where each track feels like a different excerpt from songwriters – Brendan Luken and Jake Ewald’s – diary. After cancelling their 2015 tour of Australia, it emerged that Brendan was dealing with a distressing amount of issues and after a short hiatus, we have been gifted with tracks that delve into those issues in tragic, yet beautiful detail. You would be instantly forgiven for admitting that you cried at least once during the 47 minute long album.
In a world where admissions of mental health disorders and addiction come with a certain stigma, it is refreshing to see a band tackle them without shame and it is no surprise that they are continuing to attract such a large following worldwide. Brutal honesty is an admirable quality to have and, for some reason, it remains rare – particularly in an industry that strives for album sales and radio plays. Thankfully, Modern Baseball don’t seem to care much for either one of those things.
Holy Ghost (and in fact the entirety of MoBo’s discography) is unique in that it has two main songwriters. For many bands, this would cause clashes and confusion in the band’s sound and yet clearly Brendan and Jake (not to mention the rest of the band, Ian and Sean) work extremely well together in order to produce such a sonically cohesive record.
Despite the fact that the record is essentially split into two – with Jake writing the first six tracks and Brendan covering the last five – all eleven songs flow together seamlessly. It is clear from the topics approached that both writers have experienced similar hardships and that both have struggled to find ways in which deal with them. Surprisingly, though, their individuality is not lost. Brendan’s vocal ability has improved monumentally as shown in What If… and a certain depth has been added to a number of Jake’s tracks through the use of vocal layering such as in Wedding Singer. The record is host to a whirlwind of tempo changes that don’t allow for boredom or complacency. It absolutely cannot be said that Modern Baseball have been lazy.
This is shown topically, too. As previously mentioned, this album is, at times, tough to swallow and the adversities that have been overcome to get to this point where they could release this album are plain to see. From the addiction, depression, and anxiety touched upon in tracks such as Note to Self, Mass, and Coding These to Lukens, to the inevitable and heartbreaking homesickness brought about by endless touring in Breathing in Stereo, there isn’t much to feel happy about during this record. There is an abundance of self critique and hopelessness. But then life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and to portray it that way would be inauthentic – something that Modern Baseball can never be accused of. The one thing that can be said is that there is a longing to get better. Desperation, even. Giving up isn’t an option and it is only a matter of time before fans facing similar issues will be clutching onto lines such as “Even if you can’t see it now, we’re proud of what’s to come. And you.”
“Waking up everyday is all about doing things you don’t want to do but you’re rewarded. You get to wake up.”
I hope beyond anything that this album can teach other artists to come forward and be honest about their issues through their work because I firmly believe that Holy Ghost might just be a revolutionary piece of art. Both sonically and lyrically it surpasses anything Modern Baseball have done before due to its incredible depth and lack of censorship. It shouldn’t be underrated or overlooked in any capacity.