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      September 18, 2019

      Wednesday   8:00 PM

      702 Willow Avenue
      Ithaca, New York 14850

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      Slaughter Beach, Dog

      with Cave People
      Across the previous Slaughter Beach, Dog albums, Jake Ewald has crafted a specific sound. Its one that incorporates pop music, indie-rock, folk, and just the faintest dash of punk in order to create something thats accessible but still artistically rich. With Safe And Also No Fear, the bands third album, Ewald has abandoned his usual practices in service of creating something that, try as one might, isnt so easy to describe.In the wake of 2017s Birdie, an album awash in warm tones and bubbly pop hooks, Safe And Also No Fear cant help but feel like a turn toward darkness. Its not one thats instigated by the outside worldas inescapable as it may bebut instead the dramatic shifts of a persons interior life. Where Ewald once offered tightly woven vignettes about characters that mirrored the people in his life, Safe And Also No Fear finds him naked at the albums center, questioning everything he knows about himself. Around him, bassist Ian Farmer, guitarist Nick Harris, and drummer Zack Robbins spin out songs that are dense, swirling amalgams of difficult questions and hard-earned realizationsthe kind that cant be expressed through the accepted structures of pop music. This isnt to say there arent hooks, as songs like Good Ones and One Day have effervescent melodies anchoring them, but Safe And Also No Fear generally avoids taking the clear-cut path. As Ewald tells it, thats a horrifying thing to put out into the world. After putting the finishing touches on the album, he sat down and listened back to the demos hed first made, then the album itself, and realized it sounded unlike anything hed ever done before. His creative impulses had changed over the years, and the result was a record that maybe his followers wouldnt actually like. Ewald seemingly addresses this anxiety during the albums most ambitious track, the seven-minute long Black Oak. Its fitting that midway through the longest song Ewald has ever written he offhandedly remarks, Realizing this may put my career on the line. Its part of a larger narrative, but one thats more textural and ambiguous than what the band has been known for. Is that lyric about Ewald and Slaughter Beach, Dog? Well maybe never knowand thats the beauty of Safe And Also No Fear. Its an album so profoundly singular, one that sees the band willing to wade out into deep waters without a life vest, that it encourages you to go out there with it. You hear the band fully embrace the unknown at the end of Black Oak, when the song explodes open and Ewalds vocals are looped into a refrain thats haunting and impossible to sing along with accurately. You can pick out phrases and hum a melody, but theres no didactic meaning behind it. Its there for you to find if you need it. Safe And Also No Fear is a bold gesture, not just because of the music contained therein, but because it required Ewald to interrogate his artistic tendencies, breaking himself of his habits in service of making something he never thought he could. That involved trusting his band, with whom Ewald collaborated for a full year of writing and recording. Unlike Birdie, where Ewald played every instrument, with Safe And Also No Fear everyones fingerprints are on it. Though the album is a product of Ewald committing to his vision, its also proof of the way that Farmer, Harris, and Robbins are able to expand Slaughter Beach, Dogs sonic boundaries in subtle, evocative ways.The result of that collaboration is Safe And Also No Fear, an album that doesnt leave easy clues as to its influences or intentions, instead offering up vague sketches of what it feels like to be a person who is constantly confused and anxious, yet completely committed to finding a way through it. Its not simple, and Ewalds never didactic, but the message begins to come through the more you revisit it. Every part of Safe And Also No Fear is a risk, and thats exactly what makes it so beautiful. Its a record that sees a band fully committed to their art, in spite of what everyone else would advise. And if youre listening close enough, it really does make a lot of sense.

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