Eleanor Friedberger is one half of American band The Fiery
Furnaces but she has ditched her brother Matthew for a while to
show us what she is made of with her solo debut 'Last Summer'.
It's a good show!
Ms Friedberger belongs to the Kookie-School of female singer/
songwriters (Martha Wainwright, Anna Calvi, Joan Wasser and
Florence Welch are other notable graduates) but she does seem to
have brought something to the table which is distinctly her own.
She has a plain voice but it is a good voice and when tweaked and
twisted in the name of her muse (as in the spooky interlude at the heart
of 'Scenes From Bensonhurst') it can sound positively otherworldly.
There are ten songs in the set. The arrangements are workmanlike.
Acoustic guitar, bass, keys, drums and subtle electronics. The style
is substantially a beguiling indie-folksy mixture with the odd
(very odd) incursion into funk/rock territory ('Roosevelt Island').
Things are at their best when stripped down to nearly nothing.
'One-Month Marathon' is a particularly strong example of her
ability to spin strange sonic webs out of thin air (the briefly-heard
swooping guitar accents are an especially quirky invention) but even
when Ms Friedberger rocks-out (as she sort-of does on the splendid
'I Won't Fall Apart On You Tonight') the effect is curiously angular
and discombobulating. Nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems.
For my money, however, 'Owl's Head Park' is the very best of the bunch.
A powerful composition, whose staccato rhythm and surreal lyrical imagery
frames Ms Friedberger's most raw and emotionally engaged vocal performance.
Don't wait until next summer - listen to 'Last Summer' this summer.