Frontier Ruckus has been putting out wall-of-words folk rock for over a decade now. Their lyrics are to suburban Detroit what The Hold Steady’s have been for the Twin Cities, story songs peppered with place names and proper nouns that give them a lived-in familiarity. Currently touring as a sextet, the group just released their fourth LP, Sitcom Afterlife. The album continues where 2012’s two-disc Eternity of Dimming left off, a tangle of acoustic guitars, harmoniums, and trumpets, with songwriter Matthew Milia’s rapidfire delivery almost too fast to catch on first listen. At times, his earnestness threatens to derail the whole operation, but his writing is simply too good to let that happen. His songs live “in the lensflare/Of some little memory,” fixated on nostalgia and populated by laid-off workers of dead malls and factories.
Opening act (and sensible tour pairing) River Whyless hails from Asheville, NC. They’re currently supporting last month’s self-titled EP, which has already received national press and extensive play on NPR’s World Cafe. The record’s five songs are skeletal, intimate affairs, driven by the ghostly harmonies of singers Ryan O’Keefe and Halli Anderson and the rimshot-heavy drumming of Alex McWalters. An undercurrent of dread runs through the entire EP, peeking out in ride cymbal swells and fiddle licks. On its surface, “Maple Sap” is simply about tapping trees, but there’s something sinister in O’Keefe’s calls to “start the black stove.” As Chris Rodahaffer’s echoing pedal steel fades off at the end of closer “Fine Companion,” you can’t help but be excited to hear what comes next.