Thursday, November 30, 2023

Frontier Ruckus - On the Northline (Official Lyric Video)

The Michigan-based indie folk trio Frontier Ruckus announced the upcoming release of their new album On the Northline, their sixth album to date. The group has also shared a lyric video for the title track of the album, featuring a collage of vintage family photos as backdrop for the song’s haunting melodies and contemplative lyrics. On the Northline will be released via Loose Music on February 16, 2024.

“I love constructing blurry geographies in my songwriting,” writes Frontier Ruckus singer / guitarist Matthew Milia. “The "Northline" was inspired partly by the North Country of upstate New York—where the Thousand Islands pepper the St. Lawrence Seaway—and where my dad's side of the family somehow landed from Sicily in the early 1900s. Once an industrial boomtown, now marked by Amish buggies tied up outside of Price Choppers, dilapidated bowling alleys and weedy putt-putt golf courses where the tourists have long-since stopped summering. It's my second-most visited source of inspiration for all that is equal parts glorious and grim.”

Frontier Ruckus spent the better part of the last two decades cataloging the impact of imperceptible, everyday moments while crafting a singular artform of their own making. The Michigan band was formed by young friends David Jones and Matthew Milia when they were still in high school, slowly building a world around Jones’ banjo playing and Milia’s lyrically complex songwriting. The band solidified with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Zachary Nichols, and along with a rotating host of friends and collaborators, that core membership of Frontier Ruckus guided the band through five albums of gorgeous and increasingly intricate orchestral folk pop, backdropping Milia’s poetic observations on the mundane and the holy. 

For their sixth album On the Northline, the band set up in the Ypsilanti home studio of musician and engineer Ben Collins, tracking to an Tascam 388 tape machine that died a slow death as the recording sessions burned on. The glowing production and the ever-budding arrangements evoke the same kind of internal worlds Sufjan Stevens and Neutral Milk Hotel designed, and stacks of pristine vocal harmonies radiate a gorgeous melancholy akin to Elliott Smith or Judee Sill. 

Milia remarks, “As the album was materializing, it amazed us how much of an unintentional return to our original form it felt like. Like a long-awaited sequel to our wonderfully naive debut album The Orion Songbook—separated by so much time and life progression. What made that first album special was that it was so raw, earnest, unapologetic. We didn't know any recording rules so we didn't care if we were breaking any. On the Northline was like finding that joy all over again.”

Written from across a years-long timeline, these new songs trace a non-linear development that bounces back and forth between misanthropic, lonely-hearted searching and the bliss of self-actualization that came with deeper commitment. Drastically different emotional perspectives appear from song to song. Summertime lethargy melts into smiling power pop on “Everywhere But Beside You,” a sighing daydream about meeting someone perfect projected from within a restless bachelordom. Minor-key burners like “I’m Not the Boy” and “Swore I Had a Friend” crackle with uncertainty and turmoil, while more grounded tunes like “Mercury Sable” track the progress of a relationship that brings hard-fought contentment. 

Having grown organically but single-mindedly since Jones and Milia’s teenage days, the band rode the waves of independent music through a short-lived roots rock resurgence in the 2010s, knocking on the door to larger fame a few times with appearances at festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza or on the main stage at Englands' End of the Road, but mostly living the life of a hard-working band who was grateful to connect with everyone they encountered along the way.

“I hope the intimacy of the songs reminds long-time listeners what they loved about our band and invites new listeners in just the same,” Milia says, “In that sense the full-circleness doubles as a love letter to our followers. Six albums in, for the ones still with us, On the Northline is as much for them as it is for us.”

On the Northline Tracklist:
1. Swore I Had a Friend
2. Everywhere but beside You
3. Magdalene (That’s Not Your Name)
4. On the Northline
5. Mercury Sable
6. Clarkston Pasture
7. In the Money
8. Bloomfield Marriott
9. First Song for Lauren
10. The Machines of Summer
11. I’m Not the Boy
12. Wherefore


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