Alone at St. Hugo is the forthcoming debut album by Matthew Milia—lead singer and songwriter of Frontier Ruckus.
Recorded to the reel-to-reel of a Tascam 388 tape machine in a small Ypsilanti, Michigan spare room, the record captures the sound of two friends setting out to find a harmony-laden, power pop backdrop for Milia's signature lyricism. This bedroom-fi analog approach resulted in something both classically lush and intimately raw at once. Each track began with Milia on guitar and Ben Collins on drums, playing live in the room together. From there, they divided a small galaxy of overdub responsibilities between themselves evenly—mellotron, pedal steel, Hammond organ, cello, mandolin, and horns being a few of the textures wrangled in giddy, all-night sessions. Coupled with vocal layers verging on Big Star grandeur, the most poignant aspect of the musicality's sweetness is the foil it serves to Milia's vocabulary of domestic American heaviness—a world of decaying suburban landscapes and the desperate hope still residing therein. At its core is a set of finely honed songs—a dense but deliberate catalog where memory is obsessed upon. A cast of waitresses, youth soccer coaches, grandparents, and young lovers occupying the ailing station wagons and birthday banquet halls in which these songs reside. Milia sings about real human beings in all of their glorious mundanity. Perhaps he is singing there alone, in St. Hugo, the Catholic grade school he attended from K-8. The way a selection of our memories will ring forever in some evacuated mental building, lights-out in endless night. But through it all, a wry sense of humor winks its way through the pathos, atop chord changes displaying a level of precision and classic craft uncommon to the habits of today's songwriters.
"...the haunting voice of frontman Matthew Milia, who conjures what might happen had Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum been raised in a log cabin."
- Rolling Stone
"...his unmistakable and emotively quavering voice...one man’s existential vision of the world through an idiosyncratic local lens."
"Matthew Milia is straight-up one of the most underrated lyricists of recent times."
- Gold Flake Paint
"Milia paints pictures, in vivid imagery of American scenery, life, and love, with not a single word misplaced in its poetic grace."
- Under the Radar
"...lyrics as dense as a Faulkner novel and intricate arrangements that transform the typical Americana twang and faded pastoral preconceptions of folk/pop into something surreal and yet familiar."
"Well-educated, literary-inclined American songwriters are hardly thin on the ground, but Frontier Ruckus' Matthew Milia's poetic inclination always sets him apart.”
“Milia’s lyrics come from an immersive vantage and sea-like memory, an all at once haunting yet comforting nostalgia.”
“Alone at St. Hugo reads as a yearbook of Milia’s lifetimes…and an ongoing fascination with the intricacies of familial closeness.”
- Metro Times
"As you’d probably expect from Matthew, it’s a gorgeous dose of indie folk."
"Milia's lyrics roll like rich literature and are just as visually descriptive."
"Matthew Milia says more in one song than many artists do in an entire album."
- Chicago Magazine
"Full of muted desperation, Milia conjuring a less than cosy world of strip malls, Prozac and missed opportunities with humour and pathos…"
"Matthew Milia sets dazzlingly impacted lines of poetry atop the homespun sway of Americana, his verbiage razor precise descriptions of home, family and memory in suburban Michigan..."
"Honest songwriting...a swaying invitation into the suburban American household, offering a dreamy glance back into a past forgotten life."
"Milia could probably have had a successful career as a novelist if he hadn't decided to form the band Frontier Ruckus...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."
"Milia tells these stories...with powerful vocals which tremble under the weight of expression, moving through a number of experiences and observations, at times involved and profound, at other times brilliantly effective in their simplicity."
- No Depression
"...Milia has put a new spin on the musical style known as Americana...as though Allen Ginsberg and Cole Porter had gotten together and agreed to write Americana songs about the Detroit suburbs. It's just crazy enough to catch on, and it seems to be doing just that."
- Ann Arbor Observer
"Somebody marry this winsome sad sack, whose increasingly plausible rhymes now include open-ibuprofen, gauche-precocious-neurosis, salad on the tennis court-valid passport, speckled melanin-freckled up your skin, and the very sexy errands-gerunds."
- Robert Christgau, Noisey
"Milia’s words obsess on the most suburban images possible."
- New York Daily News
"...the boy next door comes unhinged."
- Time Out New York