From their stunning 2016 debut Nothing More to Say, with a soul-tinged take on the rocksteady sound from 1960s Jamaica, Brooklyn’s the Frightnrs had already proven themselves to be a most impressive act. Sadly, lead singer Dan Klein tragically passed away soon after that record’s completion. This left the band facing not only a difficult second album, but one they had to complete without him. With Klein gone and the band attempting to continue on without him, the Frightnrs faced the daunting task of replicating their distinctive sound, while at the same time providing something different enough not to be seen as turning out a repetitive effort.
Luckily for fans of their previous work, the Frightnrs have responded to this difficult creative challenge by coming back just as strong. Klein’s backstory lends a wistfulness to Always — it’s the record of a band who know their time is limited — but on the whole the album stands as a defiant declaration of intent to follow their vision wherever it leads them.
Jangly, soulful, and deep, Always is an album that doubles down on everything fans loved about Nothing More To Say. It’s clear the band have made this album as a tribute to Klein; they’ve done so by creating a record that perfectly captures what he brought to their original sound, merging the older, more traditional rocksteady sound with soulful vocals Klein recorded before his untimely passing.
The music — courtesy of remaining band members Chuck Patel, Preet Patel, Norihiro Kikuta and their fantastic producer Victor Axelrod (aka Ticklah) — is thick, with plenty of reverb and echo that gives everything a timeless, hazy summertime feel. As always, Klein’s vocals are delivered in a relaxed style that invites you to lean in and listen carefully; ranging from hushed whispers to soaring falsettos, everything resonates with deep emotion.
It’s clear what a talent Klein was, and how much his absence is mourned. It’s also clear that he would probably be pleased at how well the Frightnrs continue to play without him. A sad loss, but one that doesn’t seem to dampen the musical spirit of those he left behind.