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4.1 out of 5 stars15
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on 1 September 2004
This follow-up to the Friedlander siblings' first album, the sublime GALLOWSBIRD BARK is as good in every way. They even manage to create an aural soundscape that is in the same ball-park as the first album, but at the other end of the pitch. BLUEBERRY BOAT is a cornucopeia of dissonance, melody, dizzy-ing genre shifts, tongue-twisting word-play and exuberance. I might also add that it is a beautiful and ethereal progression of song, too. Again, like the first album, this demands repeated listening. Too many people will give this a cursory listen and walk away frustrated by its surface obtuseness, its pretensions to song-smithery and its child-like fascination with thematic and melodic bric-a-brac. But please, stick with it and you will come away a happier, more balanced, nicer-smelling and charming person. I guarantee it.
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Every now and again, there comes an indie-rock band that really blows the mind. Neutral Milk Hotel, Radiohead and the Flaming Lips are among those bands -- and now the Fiery Furnaces join their ranks, with the rock opera "Blueberry Boat." Sprawling, quirky and musically epic, this is undoubtedly an indie classic in the making.
Piano and sputtering keyboards open the enormous intro song -- it's ten minutes long, no kidding. Then Eleanor Friedburger's sweet, singsong vocals kick in, singing a sprawling pop song. It sounds like a child's nursery rhyme on acid, full of deceptively simple rhythms, sparkling melodies and Inuit words tossed into the mix. A sugnacoon, by the way, is a coat.
That ten-minute opener also gives an idea of what the band is all about -- strange ideas, set into stories against a backdrop of artistic indierock. Echoing guitars and swirling keyboards fill up the gaps between their story-songs, which focus on everything from a religious dog in the fuzzy organ-pop "My Dog Was Lost But Now He's Found," to a kid doing legal work in guitar-heavy "Mason City."
If you want to get technical, nothing here makes sense. But like Neutral Milk Hotel, it makes sense if you ignore all your musical senses, and just listen to it by itself. The wild stylistic changes in the middle of songs, the nonsensical lyrics, and the mix of acoustic and keyboard seem like a trio of death knells for this album. Instead, they add to the magic and whimsy of it.
At first glance, the songs seem incomprehensible. Or worse, absurd. But just keep listening -- sooner or later it clicks, and the unique writing of each song shines out. The songs overflow with onomatopoeia (note: words that sound like sounds), childlike rhymes, and bizarre subject matter like pirates robbing the "blueberry boat." Perhaps the best representation is the first song -- "Quay Cur" has a lot of words that sound like nonsense, but turn out to make perfect sense once you look up what they are.
While the Furnaces got lots of praise for being catchy in their debut, here they don't stick to hooks -- whenever you think they're going to do so, they veer off. Instead we get unabashedly sparkly melodies, handclaps and eerie keyboards that sputter, ripple, hover and spark. The piano gets the best workout -- sometimes it tinkles, sometimes it ripples, sometimes it gets thumped into a dance-hall rhythm.
Sibling musicians Matt and Eleanor Friedberger share vocal duties -- Matt sounds a bit grimmer and down-to-earth, even when he's surrounded by keyboard washes. Eleanor throws herself entirely into the singing, with plenty of humor about lines like, "I kicked my dog... I was MEAN to him before!" She sounds genuinely shocked about herself.
The concept album is not quite dead, and the Fiery Furnaces have done their bit to keep it alive. To call their charming, eerie critique/concept album a future classic isn't too much of a stretch.
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Every now and again, there comes an indie-rock band that really blows the mind. Neutral Milk Hotel, Radiohead and the Flaming Lips are among those bands -- and now the Fiery Furnaces join their ranks, with the rock opera "Blueberry Boat." Sprawling, quirky and musically epic, this is undoubtedly an indie classic in the making.

Piano and sputtering keyboards open the enormous intro song -- it's ten minutes long, no kidding. Then Eleanor Friedburger's sweet, singsong vocals kick in, singing a sprawling pop song. It sounds like a child's nursery rhyme on acid, full of deceptively simple rhythms, sparkling melodies and Inuit words tossed into the mix. A sugnacoon, by the way, is a coat.

That ten-minute opener also gives an idea of what the band is all about -- strange ideas, set into stories against a backdrop of indierock. Echoing guitars and swirling keyboards fill up the gaps between their story-songs, which focus on everything from a religious dog in the fuzzy organ-pop "My Dog Was Lost But Now He's Found," to doing legal work in guitar-heavy "Mason City."

If you want to get technical, nothing here makes sense. But like Neutral Milk Hotel, it makes sense if you ignore all your musical senses, and just listen to it by itself. The wild stylistic changes in the middle of songs, the nonsensical lyrics, and the mix of acoustic and keyboard seem like a trio of death knells for this album. Instead, they add to the magic and whimsy of it.

At first glance, the songs seem incomprehensible. Or worse, absurd. But just keep listening -- sooner or later it clicks, and the unique writing of each song shines out. The songs overflow with onomatopoeia (note: words that sound like sounds), childlike rhymes, and bizarre subject matter like pirates robbing the "blueberry boat." Perhaps the best representation is the first song -- "Quay Cur" has a lot of words that sound like nonsense, but turn out to make perfect sense once you look up what they are.

While the Furnaces got lots of praise for being catchy in their debut, here they don't stick to hooks -- whenever you think they're going to do so, they veer off. Instead we get unabashedly sparkly melodies, handclaps and eerie keyboards that sputter, ripple, hover and spark. The piano gets the best workout -- sometimes it tinkles, sometimes it ripples, sometimes it gets thumped into a dance-hall rhythm.

Sibling musicians Matt and Eleanor Friedberger share vocal duties -- Matt sounds a bit grimmer and down-to-earth, even when he's surrounded by keyboard washes. Eleanor throws herself entirely into the singing, with plenty of humor about lines like, "I kicked my dog... I was MEAN to him before!" She sounds genuinely shocked about herself.

The concept album is not quite dead, and the Fiery Furnaces have done their bit to keep it alive. To call their charming, eerie critique/concept album a future classic isn't too much of a stretch.
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on 5 September 2004
The Fiery Furnaces are an extraordinary group. This is an extraordinary record. It's being billed as similar to The Who's rock operas such as Tommy, A Quick One etc. This doesn't do this the justice it deserves. I've been listening to it constantly for two days now and it is a beguiling mix of electronica, rock n roll, music hall, nursery rhyme and blues. However, this is more than the sum of its parts. Telling a bizarre tale of some sort of fantasy adventure journey - I'm not quite sure what's going on yet - each song jumps between these disparate styles with ease. Musical motifs recur throughout so that it would seem that the album has been cut up and recreated from a handful of ideas. If you like this kind of American alternative stuff, then this may just be your album of the year. Get on board.
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on 21 July 2004
The Fiery Furnaces' second record is a full-on prog rock album dressed up in indie rock rags. It's also totally brilliant. Antiquated synths squelch, tempos switch, and a story about pirates and berries unfolds. The words fly fast until they turn into mere sounds; on "Chris Michaels", track 4, the result is completely amazing.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Every now and again, there comes an indie-rock band that really blows the mind. Neutral Milk Hotel, Radiohead and the Flaming Lips are among those bands -- and now the Fiery Furnaces join their ranks, with the rock opera "Blueberry Boat." Sprawling, quirky and musically epic, this is undoubtedly an indie classic in the making.

Piano and sputtering keyboards open the enormous intro song -- it's ten minutes long, no kidding. Then Eleanor Friedburger's sweet, singsong vocals kick in, singing a sprawling pop song. It sounds like a child's nursery rhyme on acid, full of deceptively simple rhythms, sparkling melodies and Inuit words tossed into the mix. A sugnacoon, by the way, is a coat.

That ten-minute opener also gives an idea of what the band is all about -- strange ideas, set into stories against a backdrop of indierock. Echoing guitars and swirling keyboards fill up the gaps between their story-songs, which focus on everything from a religious dog in the fuzzy organ-pop "My Dog Was Lost But Now He's Found," to doing legal work in guitar-heavy "Mason City."

If you want to get technical, nothing here makes sense. But like Neutral Milk Hotel, it makes sense if you ignore all your musical senses, and just listen to it by itself. The wild stylistic changes in the middle of songs, the nonsensical lyrics, and the mix of acoustic and keyboard seem like a trio of death knells for this album. Instead, they add to the magic and whimsy of it.

At first glance, the songs seem incomprehensible. Or worse, absurd. But just keep listening -- sooner or later it clicks, and the unique writing of each song shines out. The songs overflow with onomatopoeia (note: words that sound like sounds), childlike rhymes, and bizarre subject matter like pirates robbing the "blueberry boat." Perhaps the best representation is the first song -- "Quay Cur" has a lot of words that sound like nonsense, but turn out to make perfect sense once you look up what they are.

While the Furnaces got lots of praise for being catchy in their debut, here they don't stick to hooks -- whenever you think they're going to do so, they veer off. Instead we get unabashedly sparkly melodies, handclaps and eerie keyboards that sputter, ripple, hover and spark. The piano gets the best workout -- sometimes it tinkles, sometimes it ripples, sometimes it gets thumped into a dance-hall rhythm.

Sibling musicians Matt and Eleanor Friedberger share vocal duties -- Matt sounds a bit grimmer and down-to-earth, even when he's surrounded by keyboard washes. Eleanor throws herself entirely into the singing, with plenty of humor about lines like, "I kicked my dog... I was MEAN to him before!" She sounds genuinely shocked about herself.

The concept album is not quite dead, and the Fiery Furnaces have done their bit to keep it alive. To call their charming, eerie critique/concept album a future classic isn't too much of a stretch.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Every now and again, there comes an indie-rock band that really blows the mind. Neutral Milk Hotel, Radiohead and the Flaming Lips are among those bands -- and now the Fiery Furnaces join their ranks, with the rock opera "Blueberry Boat." Sprawling, quirky and musically epic, this is undoubtedly an indie classic in the making.

Piano and sputtering keyboards open the enormous intro song -- it's ten minutes long, no kidding. Then Eleanor Friedburger's sweet, singsong vocals kick in, singing a sprawling pop song. It sounds like a child's nursery rhyme on acid, full of deceptively simple rhythms, sparkling melodies and Inuit words tossed into the mix. A sugnacoon, by the way, is a coat.

That ten-minute opener also gives an idea of what the band is all about -- strange ideas, set into stories against a backdrop of indierock. Echoing guitars and swirling keyboards fill up the gaps between their story-songs, which focus on everything from a religious dog in the fuzzy organ-pop "My Dog Was Lost But Now He's Found," to doing legal work in guitar-heavy "Mason City."

If you want to get technical, nothing here makes sense. But like Neutral Milk Hotel, it makes sense if you ignore all your musical senses, and just listen to it by itself. The wild stylistic changes in the middle of songs, the nonsensical lyrics, and the mix of acoustic and keyboard seem like a trio of death knells for this album. Instead, they add to the magic and whimsy of it.

At first glance, the songs seem incomprehensible. Or worse, absurd. But just keep listening -- sooner or later it clicks, and the unique writing of each song shines out. The songs overflow with onomatopoeia (note: words that sound like sounds), childlike rhymes, and bizarre subject matter like pirates robbing the "blueberry boat." Perhaps the best representation is the first song -- "Quay Cur" has a lot of words that sound like nonsense, but turn out to make perfect sense once you look up what they are.

While the Furnaces got lots of praise for being catchy in their debut, here they don't stick to hooks -- whenever you think they're going to do so, they veer off. Instead we get unabashedly sparkly melodies, handclaps and eerie keyboards that sputter, ripple, hover and spark. The piano gets the best workout -- sometimes it tinkles, sometimes it ripples, sometimes it gets thumped into a dance-hall rhythm.

Sibling musicians Matt and Eleanor Friedberger share vocal duties -- Matt sounds a bit grimmer and down-to-earth, even when he's surrounded by keyboard washes. Eleanor throws herself entirely into the singing, with plenty of humor about lines like, "I kicked my dog... I was MEAN to him before!" She sounds genuinely shocked about herself.

The concept album is not quite dead, and the Fiery Furnaces have done their bit to keep it alive. To call their charming, eerie critique/concept album a future classic isn't too much of a stretch.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 13 September 2004
Forget musical opera, this is a more of a stroybook adventure, navigated by two oddball americans who are brother and sister and love cheap keyboards as much as their wah pedal.
Blueberry Boat is certainly an ambitious work, and one that is certain to devide the fanbase they aqquired with their debut Gallowsbird's Bark. Pristine melodies rub shoulders with electronic dissonance to creat a fascinating, although difficult first listen. Further plays reveal more structure to the mess, and the best songs, like the 10 minute Quay Cur are impressive and catchy. Through the haze of rickety bleeps and processed organs, a synth based melody is found, with Elanor singing about her 'lost locket' and making a living down by the wharf. Then it dashes through a blues guitar shakedown before a pensive acoustic interlude, keeping the momentum going and the ideas fresh. The travels and tales woven by the duo are, at their best, fascinating stories about unfaithful lovers, failed policemen and pirates. Some may brush this off as whimsical nonsense, but the (allegorical) tale 'I Lost My Dog', is a short, sweet talking blues story about how Elanor mistreated her man/dog and her frantic attempts to find him again. Likewise 'Turning Around' which drops the eccentricities and floats on a beautiful piano motif, giving the album a short space for breath between the bombastic keyboards and ramshackle drums.
But then sometimes the excess goes to far. The first 3 minutes of 'Officer Blancheflower' is made up of a woozy synth motif which is physically nauseating, and 1979 doesn't even pick up a tune until a minute before the end. But, most probably this is intentional, as you find a lot of the music is strangely emphatic with the lyrics. And it's nice to see Matt having more of a voice on the songs, giving the album an extra bit of weight.
Even though it's not a perfect piece of work and suffers froma few missteps, songs like 'Chris Michaels' and 'Mason City' have more than enough in the way of redeeming qualities. Take a look and see for yourself.
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on 16 September 2004
This follow-up to the Friedlander siblings' first album, the sublime GALLOWSBIRD BARK is as good in every way. They even manage to create an aural soundscape that is in the same ball-park as the first album, but at the other end of the pitch. BLUEBERRY BOAT is a cornucopeia of dissonance, melody, dizzy-ing genre shifts, tongue-twisting word-play and exuberance. I might also add that it is a beautiful and ethereal progression of song, too. Again, like the first album, this demands repeated listening. Too many people will give this a cursory listen and walk away frustrated by its surface obtuseness, its pretensions to song-smithery and its child-like fascination with thematic and melodic bric-a-brac. But please, stick with it and you will come away a happier, more balanced, nicer-smelling and charming person. I guarantee it.
0Comment|4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 11 November 2004
Anyone who found the Furnaces' 2003 debut Gallowsbird's Bark "a bit weird" should stop reading now. Go buy the Keane album or something, because their status as kookiest duo in NYC is really flaunted on this barking follow-up. Banishing straight-forward pop songs until the final quarter, most of Blueberry Boat's 13 tracks clock in at well over the 5 minute mark, so the disc is crammed. Luckily, Eleanor and Matt Friedberger manage to retain at least some quality control amidst the madness: if there's something you think you've heard before, a wave of electronics or total key change will prove you wrong. Eleanor's vocals remain distinctive, while Matt- who got a part as Boring Backing Singer #1 on one track on Gallowsbird's Bark- gets more mentions. Together, they're a likeably warped pair.
Over 7 minutes, standout Chris Michaels twists and turns through numerous melodies and a continuous narrative. Tracks are often out of time with nonsensical and sometimes immature lyrics (see indie nursery rhyme My Dog Was Lost But Now He's Found). They can do it wrong, however, as the unlistenable title track shows. These jams with attention deficit disorder really aren't for the faint-hearted. But, while Blueberry Boat is nowhere near as easy to make friends with as their thrilling debut or string of singles, sticking with it will uncover incredible rewards within the tangled noise. Get familiar with their bizarre lyrics and more-than-unconventional song structures, and it'll never leave your stereo.
0Comment|6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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