Rookie band Modern Baseball could have easily tried to create an album that is deep, introspective and trendy, but instead they made a collection of songs about relationships, friends, and growing up. I could not be more pleased with the results. Sports is the band’s first full-length release, and hopefully not their last.
Frontman Brendan Lukens is acutely aware of the ups and downs of being a 20-something in the present day iPhone age, and anyone caught in this generation can relate to his winding narratives on painful and humorous levels. Contrasting between up-tempo indiepunk, slow-burning emo, and short acoustic songs to break things up a bit, Sports makes every effort to keep the listener’s ears engaged while their minds will surely be churning the unfeigned prose over in their head soon after the final chord has rang out. It’s impossible to not stay attentive when listening to Lukens lazily sings songs about girls who pay too much attention to their phones and the nights when you’re most thankful for your friends. These are the sounds of being young.
Re-Do is a fast-paced punk jam with a chugging bassline that accompanies Luken’s singing about the anxieties of growing up paired with his general love of life. The band manages to slip an obvious Motion City Soundtrack reference into the mix, showing they have been listening to musicians who have done things the right way. The track flows nicely into Tears Over Beers, which weaves a sad story that literally ends in tears being spilled over beers as Lukens pays tribute to how young and alone he feels at times.
It is hard to find songs that touch bases on the current age of social media and the impact it has on relationships. Quite possibly the reasoning behind it is the idea that it is hard to make a song with that subject matter without coming across as sappy, shallow, or flat out creepy. Tracks like @chl03k and I Think You Were in My Profile Picture Once may seem off-putting by the nature of their titles, one of which is evidently pays homage to someone’s Twitter handle.
Rather than writing a really lame song about a girl on a social media platform, Lukens really hits the spot with lines like “I know I’ll make it out of here alive, as long as I don’t watch your life unfold before my very eyes,” hinting at the hours he has evidently spent staring at someone’s profile and realizing what he has lost.
Cooke, See Ya, Sucker and Look Out are the downhill slide to the bottom of Sports, and they showcase a more confident and proactive attitude coming from Lukens’s writing as he sings “What I’m really trying to say is I’m gonna get back what I lost, so you better tell your…heart to look out.” This is where Modern Baseball starts to truly shine.
While they certainly have not reinvented the wheel here, they definitely pay tribute to some of their obvious influences such as Max Bemis and Say Anything. It is absolutely refreshing to hear an indie band take a different spin on the same wheel, as See Ya, Sucker will surely leave your head bobbing and Look Out is quirky enough to make even The Front Bottoms blush. This record is certainly far from perfect or original, but with songwriting this good there is no reason that it has to be.
Out of all the standout tracks, The Weekend is one of the most easily accessible with a background guitar riff taken straight from an early Brand New song, and it talks about nothing more than loving your friends when you need them most. Hours Outside in the Snow was another successful attempt at integrating the modern age into their songwriting with lyrics like, “Sober or not, I locked everything you sent me; cause what’s better than seeing what I’m missing daily?”
While some tracks on Sports may cause you to tear up due to some of the all-too-relatable subject matter, the album fades out with Play Ball! and Coals. Lukens sings some of his most heartfelt lyrics on the penultimate track with his honest and half raspy voice. “You find it hard to miss your family when everyday you’re part of one more” comes across as the most golden way to end a record that is surely about growing older, and I felt like crying harder than I did at the end of Toy Story 3.
Lukens knows how much growing up can suck, and rather than dwelling too much on it, he takes a much needed moment to tell all the lost 20-somethings out there, “Chill out. We’ll all get through this together.” Hopefully this release is a sign of something wonderful to come from Modern Baseball, because with a debut release this stunning they obviously have it in them. Just like the bands that have without a doubt influenced them, they will be around for anyone who needs someone who just understands.