An artist taking time away from his or her band to release a solo debut can lead to an album of deeper introspection, ideally an album where listeners feel the artist is speaking directly to them, thoughts pouring forth seamlessly from track to track. Eleanor Friedberger, known for her work in the brother-sister duo The Fiery Furnaces, has released such a solo album. Last Summer plays as a series of glimpses into Friedberger’s past summer in New York City. Teeming with nostalgia, Friedberger is inviting listeners on a dreamy journey to her past.
Combining the experimental pop of The Fiery Furnaces with Friedberger’s soaring vocals, Last Summer is an enchanting, intimate look into a season in the city. Album highlight “Roosevelt Island” begins with groovy keyboards and Friedberger’s up-tempo vocals before leading into cascading guitars and a swooping chorus echoing among the instruments. “My Mistakes” makes use of the same Fiery Furnaces-esque, trial-and-error keyboards and contagious lyrics. “I Won’t Fall Apart on You Tonight” follows an infectious music-making path, with oohs and aaahs backed by fuzzy guitars, Friedberger creating truly charming pop.
Last Summer also finds Friedberger exploring a fragile, more haunting sound than her work with her brother. Losing the testy bloops of The Fiery Furnaces, Friedberger is able to showcase a rawer form of music-making. In “Scenes from Bensonhurst”, whispery vocals are tucked amongst eerie keys and romantic guitar. “One-Month Marathon” is delicate, with cautious percussion that gives way to a burst of spooky, swaying acoustics.
Friedberger has a way of nearly speaking her vocals. With Last Summer, this works to her advantage. It’s as if Friedberger has invited listeners into a conversation amongst friends, where she fondly reminisces about good times. To the album’s credit, this conversation has the added bonus of a fantastic backing soundtrack.