The Friedberger siblings released several excellent albums over the last decade as The Fiery Furnaces, working out a set of off-kilter motifs that made their warm, challenging, idiosyncratic indie rock recognizable only as their own. Since their band’s hiatus in 2011, Matthew and Eleanor have each released solo material that featured those same twitches and flourishes, each clearly essential to their joint signature sound. That fact is immediately apparent in Eleanor’s latest LP, Personal Record, its sun-bleached nostalgia and dryly delivered depths indulging in a bit more AM radio sepia than Fiery Furnaces, yet still clearly of that same language.
Ironically, Personal Record doesn’t feel as personal as 2011’s Last Summer, moving from journal entry heartache to a more diverse set of voices and themes. That said, love, as always, plays a large part. ”I am the past and you cannot ignore me/ You have no idea what happened before me,” she croons on “I Am The Past”, embodying a particular ex and the entire concept of lost love in a single song, flute, light acoustics, and that affectless, flat delivery recalling The Magnetic Fields.
On “When I Knew”, though, she’s the one doing the chasing: “I couldn’t get her out of my head/ So I got her out of hers instead.” Friedberger wrote the album with folk songwriter Wesley Stace (a.k.a. John Wesley Harding), only the collaboration clearly works to offer new touches to the palette. She’s mentioned a deep admiration and even imitation of Van Morrison in interviews, and the direct ’70s folk embellishments here suit the comparison.
Opener “I Don’t Want To Bother You” swings and sways in open space, the incredibly jangly “Stare At The Sun” pushes the energy, while “Echo or Encore” plays out sweetly on piano and upright bass. But it’s Friedberger’s lyrics and delivery that unite these various touchstones, as fresh and distinctive as ever, incredibly poignant and powerfully aware of her self and the signifiers that surround her.
Essential Tracks: “Echo or Encore”, “Stare At The Sun”, and “When I Knew”