Creating that “difficult second album” becomes a great deal more taxing when the singer on your acclaimed debut tragically dies. Such was the situation facing Brooklyn’s the Frightnrs after 2016’s Nothing More to Say, an album that cannily evoked the late-60s era of Jamaican rocksteady, and whose intensity owed much to vocalist Dan Klein, who was felled by a neuromusculaar disease shortly after its completion.
As its title attests, crafting this follow-up from what Klein left behind has been a labour of love for the remaining trio and their gifted producer Victor Axelrod (aka Ticklah). Some tracks, such as Maybe Isle, come clearly intact, in much the same vein as the group’s debut. Elsewhere, as on 30-56 and Profilin, the group jump forward a dozen Jamaican years to embrace the sharper tempos of reggae and use sparse, echoing dub versions to stretch out the vocals they have.
It’s all meticulously put together, and the band’s playing remains crisp and compelling, so that the absence at the heart of the record is well disguised. Still, you can’t but wonder what greater glories might have arrived if Klein was still with us. His yearning anguish is beautifully captured on the closing Why Does It Feel Like a Curse?