Modern Baseball breaks down Holy Ghost track-by-track (plus a Guest DJ set!) - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Modern Baseball | Photo by Jessica Flynn | courtesy of the artist

Let’s not mince words here – Modern Baseball‘s new Holy Ghost is out this week and it’s a frickin’ masterpiece.

The record finds the Philly four-piece stepping beyond the punk rock roots of its formative releases and into bigger, bolder sonic territories, armed with some of their most disarmingly honest and personal songwriting to date. Divided down the middle (a la Speakerboxx / The Love Below) with an A-side focusing on singer-guitarist Jacob Ewald’s tracks and a B-side collecting Brendan Lukens’ tracks, Holy Ghost – out Friday on Run For Cover – is a stirring meditation on loss and change.

Ewald’s grandfather passed away at the same time as he was entering a new romantic relationship and, as he describes it, he found himself torn between two types conflicting emotions, both very intense.  Lukens, meanwhile, struggled with mental health issues, and tells us that his half of Holy Ghost focused the things he learned about his illness, his addiction and himself while at an out-patient psychiatric treatment center.

The songwriting duo’s unflinching self-reflection and fearless honesty resulted in their most engaging record to date, and some of their biggest shows as well. Whereas their previous outing, 2014’s You’re Gonna Miss It All, was celebrated with back-to-back sold out shows at The Barbary (and fans wondering why it wasn’t just held in the church basement instead), this record has MoBo headlining The Fillmore on June 26th – with reasonable certainty of a packed house. Before then, though, there’s one instore performance tomorrow night at Long In The Tooth, another one Friday at Vintage Vinyl in Asbury Park, and a stacked (and very sold out) Friday night gig at Wonder Bar.

Yesterday, a full-album stream began to circulate among MoBo enthusiasts. Today, we really dive in. Ewald and Lukens broke the album down for us, track-by-track, sharing tidbits and notes of inspiration that led to its eleven songs. To go deep on Holy Ghost while rocking the eff out to it, hit play below and read on.

“Holy Ghost”

Jake Ewald: This was the first song I wrote for the record, and it really helped me get in the right mindset to write the rest of my songs. It’s about being haunted by an idea (hah, get it) and ignoring it for a while, but then realizing that you won’t be able to get away from it unless you take some time to indulge in it.

“Wedding Singer”

JE: This song was written in conjunction with “Holy Ghost.” It’s about falling in love and having that surge of emotions unintentionally dredge up some old stuff you weren’t necessarily thinking about. Luckily, the person I fell in love also ended up doing some dredging, and together we dredged up a big steamy pile of ocean junk together.

“Note To Self”

JE: This song was difficult to finish because the whole time I was writing it I felt like it was far more “grand” and “serious” than anything I’d previously written and I kept getting self-conscious about that while writing it. But either way, I felt like I had to finish it because the idea it surrounds was something I had been thinking about for a really long time, the idea being that fans of our band had started to really take our personal thoughts and opinions to heart and we were letting them down by not having anything important to talk about.


JE: This song is about how much I hate upstate New York.


JE: This song revolves around the importance of honesty as a tool for nurturing your relationships, romantic and otherwise. It’s mostly about realizing that talking about being honest is nice and feels good, but learning how to actually practice honesty with people you care about is really fricking hard a lot of the time and can be emotionally exhausting. However, it is usually worth it.


JE: I wrote most of this song the day after my 22nd birthday. In retrospect, it kind of feels like a life update from where “Coals” left off on our first record. With “Coals” I was just starting college and I was content and in love and not thinking about my family and excited for the future, and with “Hiding” I was about to finish college and I was terribly disillusioned with my social life and felt like I had abandoned my family and was definitely not excited for the future. I guess in a general sense the song is me realizing that I was totally in denial. Now I am 23 and I try to call my parents more. Life moves slowly.

“Coding These To Lukens”

Brendan Lukens: With “Coding,” I face the MOBO fam head-on in one of our classic, “Brendan is being mean again” battles. As they try to help me see the errors of my ways, I deny any and all pieces of advice and help.

“Breathing In Stereo”

BL: This one, named by our live sound engineer // ultimate bff Jake Katz, is about touring. Much like “Note To Self,” Stereo is about being away from home for so long that you start to lose touch of your relationships (be that platonic, romantic, family, what have you…) your self worth and any and all motivation.

“Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind”

BL: This is the breaking point on my half of the record. “Apple” is about a relationship fueled by betrayal and dishonesty. And realizing that all your actions have consequences, even if you may not see those consequences at the time. “Apple” is about accepting that the world is not out to get you, that the problem may be from within.

“What If…”

BL: To play off “Apple” there is this song, which is about me accepting that I do need help. That these changes in personality and behavior are a part of me but will not define my character. With the most sci-fi references on the record, it also feels like the most “me” song on this side.

“Just Another Face”

BL: The longest of my songs and the last of my half, “Just Another Face” was the original name for the first song I ever wrote, before changing it prior to releasing it. This song kinda encompasses all of my songs but adds one defining theme of hope and that you cannot do anything alone. That I can beat my addiction. That I can understand and handle my illness. That I can take on aspects of my life that bring me stress and pain, but I cannot do it alone. That I need to swallow my pride by accepting the help others are offering me and better myself.

Want more? Of course you do! Last night, Lukens and Ewald took over the XPN airwaves for an hour-long guest DJ session where they discussed the album, previewed six of its songs, and spun two sets of some of their favorite Philadelphia peers. Listen in its entirety to their guest DJ set below – the Philly-centric part begins at the 24 minute mark.

MoBo’s Philly Playlist

Lithuania – “God In Two Persons” from Hardcore Friends
Hop Along – “Waitress” from Painted Shut
Alex G – “Bug” from Beach Music
Strand of Oaks – “Goshen 97” from Heal
Dogs on Acid – “The Prick” from Dogs on Acid
Hurry – “Nothing to Say” from Guided Meditation
Three Man Cannon – “Coma’d” from Will I Know You Then

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