LINEUP: Matthew Friedberger, Eleanor Friedberger with others on drums
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A stop gap release with singles and b-sides
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The UK wanted something to play on the radio, so the Fiery Furnaces recorded “Single Again”, a modern take on folk songs (which was chilling and gave me a lot of pause), then released this full of B-sides and new tracks. It’s called EP, but it’s really 41 minutes, so that’s a misnomer.
Always challenging and inventive, the songs aren’t just tossed off B-sides and extras, but well-crafted and musically challenging songs, with the siblings working together and Matthew even singing a few cuts as well.
The songs mostly link together, which is good, but a little frustrating for mix-tape or playlist makers. But as a stop-gap, this works well, and allowed the Furnaces to create challenging works later.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: I’m counting this as a 2005 release since the singles were new enough and the album cohered enough to be a contemporary release.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.
GRADE A-: “Single Again” gives me chills. The rest are good examples of the tuneful oddness of the Furnaces.
ARTIST: The Fiery Furnaces TITLE: Blueberry Boat YEAR RELEASED: 2004 CHART ACTION: None SINGLES: None OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only on weirdo college radio LINEUP: Eleanor Friedberger, Matthew Friedberger, David Muller, Samara Lubelski WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Tuneful weirdness from the brother-sister duo.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: For their second album, the Friedbergers decide that they weren’t weird enough, and so they play with instruments, tempos, dramatic changes, and long suites instead of short songs.
It is a success, though some tracks don’t work because it’s just too much going on all at once that contradict with each other. Also, five cuts time out at 7:52 or more – the songs to me don’t seem that long those without patience may not dig it.
All in all, I like it. I’m not afraid of this weird – since it seems very song-based and contextual.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: The song “1917” makes a reference to the year the White Sox last won the World Series when this was recorded. The next year, the White Sox WON the World Series. Coincidence?
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Nope.
GRADE:B+-: You may like it. You may love it. I think it’s really good for the most part, but they needed to edit a smidge.
ARTIST: The Fiery Furnaces TITLE: Gallowsbird’s Bark YEAR RELEASED: 2002 CHART ACTION: None SINGLES: Crystal Clear, Tropical Ice-Land OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: This music only gets on The Current (MN) or KEXP (Seattle) or other such stations. LINEUP: Eleanor Friedberger, Matthew Friedberger, Ryan Sawyer WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Brother sister duo (with a hired drummer) construct an album of odd, off-kilter songs that borrow from post-punk, grunge, electronica, and Lord knows what else. It works!
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Fiery Furnaces are at times too obtuse even for their fans. In this first album, though, they are pretty straight forward in their skewed musical universe.
Eleanor’s vocals and interesting (yeah, that’s the word) lyrics fit right over Matthew’s inventive, challenging and unique arrangements. A song like “Don’t Dance Her Down” has elements of funk, electro-pop and soul all blended together with a disjointed guitar.
“Two Fat Feet” was the song that turned me onto the Fiery Furnaces as anything more than just a weird novelty. The guitar in that song is strong, and the rhythm section chugs along (ok, Matthew mostly chugging along with himself). Then, there’s this piano that sounds like a nursery school piano!
NOTES & MINUTAE: “Don’t Dance Her Down” is loosely adapted from “Big Jim’s in Town”
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.
GRADE: A-: I love challenging music that’s also memorable. This fits that description.