Eleanor Friedberger – Last Summer

January 01, 1970

(Merge)

 

www.mergerecords.com

 

When
Eleanor Friedberger and her brother Matthew work together in the Fiery
Furnaces, they have been known to break into a different song in a spot where
other bands would break into a different chord. Even their more recent,
rock-like compositions can still have a dizzying effect. With that kind of
track record, the most conspicuous element of Last Summer is the simplicity of the music.

 

“My
Mistakes” begins with a two-chord pattern, and it sticks with it for more than
four minutes. Granted, the bass kicks in after 30 seconds and extra keyboards
differentiate the chorus from the verse, but Friedberger proves that less can
work just as well as more in her hands. Of course it helps to have her skewed
narratives directing the music (which always seemed to keep the Furnaces from
sounding anywhere near serious or pretentious). Opening the song and the album
with the line, “You know I do my best thinking when I’m flying down the bridge/
humming to myself and kicking up my kicks,” she seems to usher in listeners for
the stories that are to come in the next 35 minutes.

 

Her
tales flow in a talk-sing manner that sounds like she’s both skillful with her
phrasing and that she just rattles off incidents spontaneously, with no regard
for rhythm. What a bunch they are too. “Scenes from Bensonhurst” sounds a bit
like a spy thriller, though she keeps it might obtuse. “Roosevelt
Island,” with its four-on-the-floor, clavinet groove, takes the
increasing idea that mundane tweets actually make great stories, and
Friedberger actually makes it true, stringing together several incidents into a
story that might’ve actually happened last summer. By focusing on the lyrics,
it’s easy to miss that the song is also built on a simple
riff.

 

When
Friedberger skims on storylines, things suffer, like “Glitter Gold Year,” where
she repeats the title and variations on the digits in 2010 as if she was
creating a scratch track to be completed later. But this is an aberration. Most
of the time, she’s enthralls and even veers towards pure pop with “I Won’t Fall
Apart on You Tonight.” Anyone who wishes the Fiery Furnaces continued with the
straight forward quirk of their debut album should devour this. If she and her
brother stop working together (don’t worry, they haven’t), Eleanor will do just
fine on her own.

 

DOWNLOAD: “I Won’t Fall Apart On
You Tonight,” “Owl’s Head
Park.” MIKE SHANLEY

 

 

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