In the run-up to their full-length debut, critics and admirers of The New Frontiers seem content to cast the Dallas group as a melding of Coldplay’s sweeping sound and Midwestern rock sensibilities. While the glimpses of Americana are spot-on, the band’s indie side drifts more toward the dreamy melodies of labelmates Lovedrug (though Nathan Pettijohn is a far smoother, less intense vocalist than Lovedrug’s Michael Shepard) than the U.K. giants’ anthemic grandeur. That is, for the first half of Mending, at least.
In the band’s first five tunes, they achieve mid-tempo glory, moving toward new, multi-faceted territory on standouts like “Black Lungs”, “The Day You Fell Apart” and “Strangers”. From there, the pace slows and the album becomes a succession of one lovelorn ballad after another. That translates to a lack of variety and the occasional loss of momentum. The good news, however, is that the band is very skilled in their writing and performance of the slow jams; melodic and sensitive, tracks like “Spirit and Skin” and “Standing on a Line” sparkle, mixing folk guitar and western sounds into what is, by album’s end, a lingering feeling of the same old thing.
Mending is a very solid debut that reveals the band’s certain talent (especially showing Pettijohn’s skills as a songwriter). As the band learns to live comfortably in the tension between tempos, influences and styles, their stock can only rise.