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The Sunflower

REVIEW: ‘Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling’ is an underwhelming, feel-good album

Courtesy of Lame-O-Records

Slaughter Beach, Dog is an alternative rock/indie band fused with Christian folk and country flair. “Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling” is their fifth and newest album, released on Sept. 22. After two listens to it, it gave me the sense of a half-hour summer shower in the middle of a heatwave. It was a nice listen, but it was underwhelming, especially when I could see that it could’ve been much better. 

The album opens with “Surfin New Jersey,” a relaxing ballad about enjoying life and nature while surfing in New Jersey. It’s the perfect track to open the album. The background synths set the stage and pars that with the mellowness of Jake Ewald’s comforting vocals and “Mmm-hmms.” It immediately lets the listener know what kind of album they are in store for. 

“Strange Weather” introduces the more rock side of the album; however, it holds the band’s overall mellow feel while providing more kick in a balanced presentation. The lyrics tell of a love gone bad —  that the world seems strange and even the weather in it. 

“Float Away” is the best track on the album. Ewald sings more fluidly here, enunciating every line in a five to seven-syllable cadence. This flow is what makes it the best song on the album for me. It talks about a couple who have grown apart. The man misses her without realizing that, in remembering, he is creating his own pain. He refers to her as one who floated away. I like how this is written because it illustrates how it wasn’t a ruinous breakup but two people who weren’t on the same page anymore and naturally went separate ways. While the concept and theme are overdone, this is a serene, well-executed take on it. 

“My Sister in Jesus Christ” is about Ewald telling his twin sister secrets. The writing in the chorus is a little confusing because I thought this was a close friend —  a “sister” in Jesus Christ — but it was Ewald’s actual sister. The melody is slower, but the verses jump pitch in harmonics, which gives the song a nice groove all the way through. 

“Summer Windows” recalls the struggles of being unable to convey essential and emotional things to people. However, when Ewald is able to do it, it is like opening windows to let in summer sunshine and air. I initially didn’t like this song, feeling too uninteresting. However, after more listening and inspection, the song grew on me. The melody perfectly conveys a soul sighing, which makes me appreciate it more than before. 

Unfortunately, the second half of the album dips in quality. “Bobcat Club” is Ewald reminiscing about going to a bar that is personal to him. The song is acoustic and leans heavily into the folk side of the album (many of these later tracks do this). Unlike “Summer Windows” and “Surfin New Jersey,” there isn’t much to the song. Despite a resounding snare in every half measure coupled with a nice strum-along, it’s flat and forgettable. 

“Tommy” asks what is the worst God can do? The answer: take away your blessing of life. The instrumentals are good once again, but like “Bobcat Club” it doesn’t build and doesn’t go anywhere. It does feel a little more lively compared to the previous song, but only slightly. 

“Engine” is an ensemble of verses, a culmination of Ewald’s memories. Specifically how the memories have been a driving force for him. In this case, I wish the song was structured with lines as simple as “I remember” or “another story is” to differentiate the verses as separate memories. To add the cherry on top, a chorus that elucidates how these memories are his driving force would be a nice touch. 

The song stands at a whopping nine minutes in length. Considering there are nine verses in the song, it would seem obvious that the song would be an instrumental solo or a unique continuation of the song in between a few verses or two. Instead, the nine verses are back to back in the first half of the song. The second half is instrumentation only; however, instead of changing time signatures or adding a few unique arpeggios, there are extra synth noises in the background. 

The album has two more songs that close it. Like most of the songs besides “Engine,” they are three to four minutes in length. I find it a terrible choice not to end the album with “Engine,” not only considering its length but also its subject matter being a collection of memories to keep Ewald and the band grounded, laughing, crying, and smiling. The second half of the song also feels like an outro to the album. While the instrumentation is flat and not too interesting to listen to, it still feels like it is trying to put me in a mood to recollect; not only over the album but over my own memories. 

The ninth track is “Henry,” which is about a southern boy who falls in love with cello bass and jazz. In reaction, he begins to act like his idols, with actions like smoking cigars. Henry’s mother discovers her son’s new habits, destroys his record collection, and sends him to military school. It is good that Henry’s bad habits were stomped out while sad that he lost his freedom of self-expression. I think this is the best song in the second half of the album since the band understands that the subject matter is simple, it needs to be simply told. So, an acoustic is the only instrument used. 

The album closes rather unsatisfyingly with “Easter,” which is a Christian lullaby. From how I decipher it, it is about passing on and being accepted by Jesus. Before going to Heaven, the final thought is of a sunrise on an Easter morning. The imagery in the writing is beautiful, being the best-written song on the album.; however, the slow and humble acoustic is a bit underwhelming, especially for the closing track. 

While the album is very lackluster, the themes in this album tie together with its title well. All the themes would make me want to cry, laugh, and smile (not sure about waving, though). 

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About the Contributor
Tyler Guthrie
Tyler Guthrie, Former columnist
Tyler Guthrie was a columnist with The Sunflower. Guthrie uses he/him pronouns.

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