Eleanor Friedberger

Personal Record

Merge

Jun 04, 2013 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


The title of The Fiery Furnaces singer/songwriter Eleanor Friedberger's second solo record could be read as a sly wink. Her 2011 debut, Last Summer, was the true Personal Record. That slept-on release was thematically centered on the indie pop musician's inaugural years living in Brooklyn and possessed a lyrical specificity not usually heard in the modern indie rock landscape. Longstanding regrets, youthful ardor, and romantic zeal influenced her perky rock tunes from top to tail. Personal Record is clever because you're never quite sure if Friedberger is recounting her own experiences or just singing about universal truths that seem like nostalgic diary entries.

Debut single, "Stare at the Sun," is the prime example of this cunning lyrical theme. The opening sets the scene in the back of a taxi with a friend who turns off the TV and reads a book aloud on their phone. When the character returns later on as an ex-lover, Friedberger sings a series of cryptic and somewhat funny lines: "Skeleton key/Oh baby, the places we've gone...keep this in amber, keep our appointment." This lyrical wordplay and ambiguousness lends each poppy guitar hook and laid-back melody a universal quality. Bouncy bar-rock songs such as "When I Knew" and "She's a Mirror" reward repeat listens because of their energy and panache.

Elsewhere, the album showcases a penchant for upending your expectations in delightful ways. "My Own World" is a simple country-rock tune until a flute floats in during the bridge. It sticks around during the final verses and serves as a welcome counterpoint to Friedberger's shambling guitar work. The acoustic pop tune somehow avoids the cheese factor inherent in so much of today's indie stars reviving '70s pop. Also, the midtempo trot heard on "Tomorrow Tomorrow" blasts into an electric sprint during the chorus.

Much of Personal Record's lyrical and musical spontaneity stems from DFA producer Eric Broucek (!!!, Hercules and Love Affair, Jonny Pierce) returning to his production duties after Last Summer. Broucek's analog approach gives each recording a warmth, and all of the separate instruments are given proper attention. Because of this and more, Personal Record is another fine entry in Eleanor Friedberger's career. (www.eleanorfriedberger.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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