Philadelphia-based quartet Modern Baseball take a darker turn on their third LP, Holy Ghost.
The amiable emo Pennsylvanians, led by co-frontmen Jake Ewald and Brendan Lukens, work to tone down the quirky humor and lovesick pop-punk of their earlier efforts, finding bigger fish to fry as they age into some of life's heavier trials.
Themes of loss, depression, and loneliness are at the heart of Holy Ghost's 11 tracks which, in an intentional nod to OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album, are grouped by songwriter into two distinct sections.
But, while things may seem a bit more dour in Modern Baseball's camp, change is an essential part of art's process and this newfound maturity suits the band well.
Stewarding them into their next phase is producer Joe Reinhart (Joyce Manor, Hop Along), whose outside influence helped streamline their powerful sound into a surprisingly cohesive album, given the album's unusual sequence.
Ewald's contributions are featured on "Side A" (tracks one through six) and he gets things started with the brief acoustic title cut before squalls of feedback usher the full band into the warm and spirited "Wedding Singer." Though his work here is somewhat more upbeat than Lukens', he can be heard mourning not only the passage of youth and time, but also his grandfather, who passed away while the album was being written.
The sincerity that initially won Modern Baseball so many of their fans remains one of their biggest assets, and it's still very much a presence on Holy Ghost.
For Lukens' half of the album (tracks seven through 11), things ultimately feel more dire.
Following a suicidal episode after the band's last major tour, he was diagnosed as bipolar and soon began getting treatment for his illness.
His inner demons are battled over a series of short but powerful tracks before concluding the album with the epic "Just Another Face." It's a mighty finale as well as a melodic high point as Modern Baseball go out on an up note with a rousing chorus of "I'm not just another face, I'm not just another name.".