Matthew Milia, Frontier Ruckus’ frontman and occasional Samantha Crain collaborator, plays Shakespeare on the band’s latest effort, the make-your-own-words Deadmalls and Nightfalls.
The alliterative “Nerves of the Nightmind” immediately paints a folk-y landscape, complete with acoustic guitar, banjo, horns, and Milia’s lyrical quirks. “Now that I’ve found another smell to believe in,” he sings, his warbling, near-nasal vocals continuing, “I’m buzzing like hell.”
That blatant weight on words both burdens and discerns Milia.
The haunting “Ontario” and upbeat “Ringbearer” bombard listeners with horns and words. On “Ringbearer,” Milia’s peculiar phrasing works: “When my father sleeps, the house has lungs.” That personification could satisfy even the most persnickety poet. At other times, it becomes too much. The bluegrass-and-blues of “Silverfishes” self-indulges, and the eight-minute-plus “Pontiac, the Nightbrink” wears out its welcome. Words seem forced, and rhythms too off-beat.
Milia, ever the wordsmith, reels his wit in on “Pour the Nighteyes,” the disc’s short-and-sweet closer. He constructs air-tight harmonies with bassist Anna Burch, making calls to carry a lover’s weight without knowing that he, too, needs someone to carry – or, at the very least, share – his own.
Deadmalls and Nightfalls is out now on Ramseur Records.