Release Date: Jan 22, 2016
Record label: Frenchkiss Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Emerging from a band as idiosyncratic and cultishly-adored as The Fiery Furnaces to go her own way must have been a little daunting for Eleanor Friedberger. How to follow a string of audacious concept albums of ship-in-a-bottle intricacy and endless musical scope recorded with your brother? Her third solo album suggests that a series of effortless, classic singer-songwriter collections might just be the ticket – easy when you know how. Personal Record, her second album proved to be a durable, sleeper hit – an often melancholy, 70s-tinged set characterised as much by knowing word-play as hummable melodies.
Recorded in a converted barn studio near her new home in upstate New York, former Fiery Furnaces frontwoman Eleanor Friedburger’s third solo record is her first following a move from Brooklyn, combining timeless indie pop melodies with her signature lyrical sneakiness. From the gliding guitar progression of He Didn’t Mention His Mother and the swelling Open Season, New View is a warm and rustic listen, Friedberger dressing sharply drawn narratives in a classic folk sound that makes the album as cosy as an old jumper. These songs are so immediately inviting, it’s easy to miss Friedberger’s crafty shifts; Because I Asked You is deceptively simple with its jaunty Wurlitzer and doo-wop guitar before the chorus flips the song’s repeated questioning to reveal an earnest appreciation of intimacy.
Eleanor Friedberger wears her creativity lightly these days. Where the output of her original band, the Fiery Furnaces, was stuffed with ideas, a mellow simplicity holds sway on her third solo record. Its musical touchstones are Neil Young and George Harrison and Friedberger’s voice is set to simple arrangements for acoustic, bass, drums and Wurlitzer organ.
Among midlife indie kids working a sidelong vision of classic-rock ecstasy, there aren't many doing it with more grace or smarts than Eleanor Friedberger. She's been at it since the early 2000s – first with her brother Matthew in the Fiery Furnaces, and now as a solo artist – and she's currently hitting an artistic peak. Her last album, 2013's Personal Record, was her best yet, setting richly drawn, empathetic character sketches of adorably bumfuzzled romantics to economically rangy guitar ruminations à la Stephen Malkmus and Wilco in finest fireside hangout mode.
As pitches for your new record go, Eleanor Friedberger’s was certainly different: “I hope that this album just sounds like an adult woman who’s OK, as boring as that sounds,” the former Fiery Furnaces singer said recently of her third solo album. New View takes its title partly from a grown-up relocation – Friedberger has moved from Brooklyn to upstate New York – and while it never sounds boring, the arrangements are undeniably trad. There are shades of Bob Dylan here (opener He Didn’t Mention His Mother even borrows the chord structure from Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door), while the beautifully understated Never Is a Long Time has the finger-picked warmth of an Iron and Wine song.
One of the few positives of the untimely demise (or semi-permanent hiatus) of the Fiery Furnaces has been the emergence of Eleanor Friedberger as a gifted solo artist. Her two previous solo offerings (2011's Last Summer and 2013's Personal Record) made a strong case for Eleanor as the go-to Friedberger sibling for post-Furnaces pop-rock. Her latest record, New View, is another step forward, and sees Friedberger emerging further from the lengthy shadow cast by her former band.
Sometimes she sits and thinks, and sometimes she just sits. So went Courtney Barnett’s song lyric-turned album title and critic’s darling of 2015. In that phrase Barnett seemed to harness the process of her songwriting, that of seeing and considering one’s unique perspective in order to relate it in song. This is the sort of thing an artist like Lucinda Williams has been doing for decades; making an observation shared feel like a shared observation.
This past October, Eleanor Friedberger released "False Alphabet City," a groovy one-off single all about the "city that betrayed her." Like many musicians before her, Friedberger has long made New York City her favorite stage. Her songs, which roll with a bouncy '70s pop nostalgia, are peppered with stories of getting sick riding the Coney Island Cyclone, snapping pictures in front of a sweet Lamborghini on Manhattan Avenue, and the small, poignant act of muting Taxi TV. But with a bitter edge in its tone, "False Alphabet City" played like an earnest goodbye, to the noise, to whoever hurt her, to the false glamour of urban spaces.
Review Summary: Today I'm frozen, but tomorrow I'll write about you. That Eleanor Friedberger’s third record is her most classic one yet, steeped in well-worn ‘70s singer-songwriter tropes and warm, folksy tones isn’t necessarily a surprise, given her trajectory post-Fiery Furnaces. Where brother and former bandmate Matthew Friedberger has revealed himself to be the mad genius behind ill-advised concepts like the Fiery Furnaces’ 2005’s Rehearsing My Choir, releasing a series of impressively/frustratingly difficult solo records, Eleanor has sharpened her hooks.
On New View, Eleanor Friedberger's solo work remains as laid-back and straightforward as her music with the Fiery Furnaces was lively and complex. Recorded with her band Icewater after a move to upstate New York, her third album reaffirms that one of her greatest gifts as a solo artist is the fresh personality she brings to classic rock stylings that could seem stuffy in almost anyone else's hands. She plays into -- and against -- those traditions skillfully: A slight Laurel Canyon echo graces "All Known Things'" ruminations, and the folky standout "Never Is a Long Time" is one of her finest and most timeless-sounding songs yet.
Moving on from the mighty Merge Records for her third solo record, former Fiery Furnace Eleanor Friedberger has edged a further step away from her quirk-pop indie roots and taken the opportunity to luxuriate in some warming, if familiar feeling classic rock. While Friedberger’s first and finest album Last Summer was a wild, untethered kaleidoscope of interpersonal colour sourced from her experiences in New York City that echoed the grinning, intelligent alt-charm of Ted Leo while harnessing a soulful, bruised sexuality worthy of Van Etten, her follow-up, the wonderfully titled Personal Record was a less focused, more obtuse collection that seemed to drift along in its own summer haze of fuzzing guitar and stoned smiles while still managing to deliver some of the delicious tunes we’d come to expect. For New View we’re firmly cast backward to the Seventies – be it Freidberger ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ with THAT chord structure on opener ‘He Didn’t Mention’ or the slow-roaring Neil Youngisms of ‘Open Season’ this is a record with an eye on the hippie vibes of the predominant singer-songwriters of the time.
Every once in a while (alright, it’s not that rare), I get sort of crushed under the realization that I’m never going to come to some kind of final understanding about our whole situation here. I’ve had some genuine personal breakthroughs, sure, but for every epiphany, there seems to come dozens if not hundreds of doubts about everything I hold true about this world. So much time spent pining for some resolution to the uncertainty that I can’t help but conclude that satisfying answers are about as far from guaranteed as things get in this life.
At first glance, the titles of Eleanor Friedberger's first two solo records provide context for her clever, knotted lyrics and oddball pop melodies..
It’s now been almost seven years since The Fiery Furnaces apparently signed off with the fittingly titled I’m Going Away. Often brilliant, sometimes almost frustratingly frenzied in its invention, the only thing about Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger’s output that was predictable was its sheer unpredictability, mischievously shifting from garage-pop to fragmented rock-operatics, thinking nothing of a concept album of Chicago reminiscences narrated by the siblings’ grandmother. In that time, with brother Matthew dead-set on a path of wayward experimentation, beginning with a sprawling double solo set and taking in a series of eight albums each featuring only one instrument, Eleanor Friedberger has released two albums which retained the witty, storytelling lyrics of her band’s best work, but jettisoned the hyperactive lucky-dip approach for a sunny ’70s singer-songwriter feel.
Eleanor Friedberger was always destined for success: a voice glowing with inner strength reminiscent of Patti Smith, the pop storytelling poignancy of Elvis Costello and an ear for elegant melodies echoing Neil Young classics. Recorded live-to-tape in an out-of-town converted barn in Germantown, upstate NY, ‘New View’ breathes vast open spaces, cool poise and easy confidence of someone comfortable in their own musical skin. The record abounds with familiar Friedberger observations and personal, intimate details that make each narrative at once both uniquely individual and universal.
Eleanor Friedberger’s former band, the Fiery Furnaces, had a prolific streak, making the patient arc of her solo career surprising. She’s released three albums in nearly six years, drifting further to the center with each album, moving inward from the outer margins of pop that the Furnaces charted. On New View, Friedberger continues refining a timeless classic rock sound.
THREE ALBUMS into her solo career, Eleanor Friedberger has finally left Fiery Furnaces behind. For some Blueberry Boat devotees, the simple, unadorned sounds of Friedberger’s latest release, New View, may be seen as a betrayal of her previous conceptual ambition. However, after eleven years of producing grandiose, densely complex music, Friedberger has earned the right to release as much modestly lovely pop as she pleases.
On her third solo album, Eleanor Friedberger continues to smooth out her herky-jerky tendencies. Light years away from her days in prog-rocky Fiery Furnaces with her brother, Matthew, Friedberger now delivers streamlined indie pop, a little bit countrified this time around. While still distinctly Friedbergian, her melodies move around smoothly in a newfound singsongy way.
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As half of the fanciful brother-sister duo Fiery Furnaces, Eleanor Friedberger was involved in some of the 2000s’ most ornate indie-rock experiments: “Rehearsing My Choir,” the concept album based on their grandmother’s life; the sparse yet epochal “Blueberry Boat”; the siblings-covering-each-other record “Take Me Round Again. ” But on her third solo album since the Furnaces embarked on an extended break, Friedberger proves herself a master of the singer-songwriter confessional, with sun-dappled tracks that have the easiness of loose-limbed country-rock without being afraid to offer a peek at the beating heart lurking underneath. Friedberger and the Fiery Furnaces were synonymous with Brooklyn’s brand of early-21st-century hipness, but before recording “New View” she relocated to New York’s small-town-studded Hudson Valley.
Launching pad Fiery Furnaces still on hold, Eleanor Friedberger continues carving her own path. Third solo album since that 2011 pause, New View focuses on the Illinois native opening up to explore bigger, looser soundscapes minted by Seventies landmarks like Van Morrison. "Because I Asked You" ventures just shy of full-tilt funk, and "Never Is a Long Time" switches back just as aptly into her wheelhouse of reflective, fingerpicking ruminations.
The Fiery Furnaces, indie rock’s sibling-duo answer to the noodling art songs of Henry Cow and Slapp Happy, split at the start of this decade. Since then, multi-instrumentalist, chief songwriter, and expert-level interview shit-talker Matthew Friedberger has focused on tossed-off quickies and admirably unlistenable concept records (though last year’s self-released Mr. Fried Burger, I Resume? was a minor return to form), leaving singer-guitarist Eleanor Friedberger to take the spotlight in an unlikely way: by establishing herself as a 1970s session-band-backed singer-songwriter for the 2010s.