Enter the Kingdom is the 5th LP from Michigan's own Frontier Ruckus.
Rolling Stone calls it "a serious and thought-provoking record."
As part of our Songs from Studio East series, we look at how the band continues to evolve musically while still holding on to their roots.
It took four years for Frontier Ruckus to come out with their newest album.
"'Enter the kingdom' kind of refers to the kingdom being my childhood home. The cover of the record is the window into my childhood bedroom, which is kind of the portal, that entrance into that world of memory, and this idea ... of a more innocent time in my life,” said Matthew Milia, lead vocalist and guitarist.
Ever the nostalgic, Milia says the new music hits on "bittersweet emotions.” He writes about the places and people close to him, including memories of growing up in metro Detroit, themes around family, and financial struggles. They're ideas Milia says American families can relate to.
"A catalyst for this record lyrically was my dad losing his job and the impending possibility of us having to sell that childhood kingdom of memory, this place that I've lived pretty much all my life. Luckily it didn't end up happening, but people lose their homes every day, even in, like, a suburban climate where there's this illusion of prosperity and this American dream happening, more and more people have been living beyond their means. A lot of this record is about this childhood innocence abruptly colliding with adult reality."
Juxtapose the emotional lyrics with melodic pop Americana rhythms, and you've got a sound that's both nostalgic and catchy.
But there's something more that makes this new album from Frontier Ruckus special: the return of vocalist Anna Burch. She left the band before album number number four came out. She remembers just needing a break from the craziness of touring.
"I think that when I stepped away ... at the tender age of 21 and I had just graduated college and we pretty immediately signed a record deal and got a booking agent. And we went from being, like, a college band to a band that was ... touring to a Google calendar that was filling up and there was no light at the end of the tunnel in terms of coming home, so. Yeah, that was hard to do and I think that I was young enough that I figured there were probably other things out there than sitting in a van with five dudes," said Burch.
"We were missing her harmony ... it was good to get back to that harmony that was such a major component of our early identity," said Milia.
Burch says her rejoining the band "definitely brought Matt more into the mindset of singing duet-style again, which definitely lent itself to more pop and more concise pop writing I think. "
Frontier Ruckus recorded their fifth album in Tennessee. And it's the first time they added a string section.
"This is the first record we've done outside of Michigan, which as a necessary challenge," said Milia.
Burch says the album is more polished and ambitious.
Frontier Ruckus kicks off their 2017 Enter the Kingdom tour tonight with a show at the Old Dog Tavern in Kalamazoo. After hitting several spots here in the U.S., they head to Europe for a month-long tour there.
Support for arts and culture coverage comes in part from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.