Matthew Milia could probably have had a successful career as a novelist if he hadn't decided to form the band Frontier Ruckus. Milia's songs attest to the man's talent for telling a story, and he has a knack for finding the details that make his tales come to life, from the slob watching the final episode of his favorite show in his sweatpants ("Visit Me") and the middle-aged guy scanning the employment ads on craigslist ("Sarah Springtime") to the amount of money a well-off former girlfriend owes her still-bitter ex ("27 Dollars"). Released in 2017, Enter the Kingdom, Frontier Ruckus' sixth album, finds the indie pop influences that were seeping into their sound on 2014's Sitcom Afterlife becoming all the more prominent, though there's still a folky warmth that dominates these songs, and the production by former Wilco and Uncle Tupelo drummer Ken Coomer finds a sweet spot that makes the most of Milia's melodies whichever way they turn. And while Milia doesn't seem to have found the Bluebird of Happiness just yet, the dour tone that dominates much of Frontier Ruckus' previous work has lightened a bit on Enter the Kingdom. There's a warmth and personality in these performances that's honest and winning, and the pedal steel and string arrangements bring out the generosity of the melodies. And if this batch of songs sounds a bit more artful than much of Frontier Ruckus' back catalog, "If You Can" is beautiful and striking in its simplicity, with just a guitar, Milia's voice, and the sound of rainfall bringing an evocative depth to the tune. It's clear Matthew Milia has the talent to do any number of things, but thankfully he's happy to continue making music, and Enter the Kingdom is yet another reminder that Frontier Ruckus are one of the best things to come out of Michigan since Faygo Redpop.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming