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The Frontier Index

It’s been a long time since any rock record made me think of Buddy Holly or the Everly Brothers. Frontier Index’s three-part harmonies and their keening, heartstring-tugging voices recall the early influence of Protestant church music, the folk melodies of the British Isles, and, hell, even barbershop quartets on early rock and roll. It is a sound as plaintive as the “rain tapping on your window,” as the lyrics to Picture in My Pocket put it. The first half of the record is crunchy, twangy, and guitar heavy; the second half captures the spare sound of early rock. Listen to the hushed and hurried whispery vocals, the heartbeat pitter-pat snare drums, and the strummed open chords of Live for You; try not to think of Holly’s Every Day or Wake Up Little Susie. Frontier Index manage to recapitulate the transition from early rock to psychedelia in numbers like Silver Sun. The reverb and the tremolo on the guitars sound like 1958 but lyrics like “I have your silver sun on a string” have a Dylanesque quality and the persistent, droning pedal tone captures the dreamy quality of The Beatles’ Rain or Dear Prudence. This is not to say that Frontier Index is a nostalgia act. A number like Feel the Sun recalls Beatle ballads like In My Life, but the unusual dissonances and distorted guitars belong firmly to a musical world that has been through grunge, alt-rock, and “the New New Wave.” All this is by way of saying that the tag “alt-country” doesn’t really apply to this band’s work; they are singers, songwriters, and players who must be appreciated on both their own terms and within a wider framework than the “alt-country” label provides. (Erik Weisengruber)


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