The New Frontiers

The Militia Group, 2007

REVIEW BY: Kenny S. McGuane


Nothing sounds new anymore.

Nothing. Even records praised as having some sort of “new” sound don’t really sound new. Pop music can be innovative or forward-looking/thinking, but it’s all been done before. All of it. Anyone who says otherwise is fooling himself. It’s funny then that a new band like The New Frontiers can make such a blatantly unoriginal record and still manage to catch the attention of this here critic. You’d think that because it’s all been done before you’d wanna go straight to the source rather than listen to a record that at the end of the day is just an exercise in influence mimicry.

Let’s make something perfectly clear: the debut album Mending from Dallas, Texas five-piece The New Frontiers is a gorgeous record.

The question is whether or not imitation negates a record’s intrinsic value or beauty. I don’t think so. Mending -- predictable as it may be -- is stuffed with soul. That’s what makes the difference here: sincerity. New Frontiers frontman Nathan Pettijohn delivers a perfect vocal performance and it’s the kind of subdued, intimate, bedroom vocal reminiscent of Travis vocalist Fran Healy’s pitch-perfect pipes. Soulful, elegant, and sincere vocals always manage to transcend almost any other feature of an album.   my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The soaring arrangements on Mending do precisely what they should do for mellow, sensitive, alternative rock: they elevate the dynamic, making it even harder for the listener to ignore the record’s coffee-house beauty. Matt Goldman’s production is excellently executed, even if the mix is a bit bass-heavy at times. Music like this relies heavily on big-thinking production and Jacob Chaney’s guitar work combined with Guy Turner’s keyboard playing satisfies this requirement perfectly.

Album opener “Black Lungs” steals the show, no doubt. Other slow-burning highlights like “The Day You Fell Apart,” “Man Down,” “Mirrors,” and “Walking On Stones” tie Mending’s eleven tracks together quite nicely and in the end what you get is a competent record from what is clearly Nathan Pettijohn’s blossoming songwriting.

This record isn’t going to change anyone’s life, and despite its being far more artistically advanced than most everything else happening on the radio, it’s not going to sell a million copies. But you don’t get the feeling that’s what The New Frontiers are shooting for. Sounds to me like a band that just wants to make their music the way they want to make it and hope that somewhere along the way their records will mean something to someone.

One thing’s for sure: this is perfect Sunday morning music because it encourages self-reflection, which is an activity often saved for lonely Sunday mornings. As its title suggests, Mending is a record about repair and restoration. It’s reflective and carefully laid out and The New Frontiers are making music that matters to them, and that’s usually what makes for the most honest kind of record, even if their honesty is drowned in a format that makes it difficult for snobs to appreciate.

But if you can accept the music for what it is and just immerse yourself in Mending’s self-evident sincerity and heartfelt poetry, then the record will just sort of reveal itself as one definitely worth hearing again. I bet the live show is even better.

Rating: B

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© 2008 Kenny S. McGuane and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of The Militia Group, and is used for informational purposes only.