Jul 20, 2011 Web Exclusive
Breaking away from her full-time gig as singer of the experimental art-pop band The Fiery Furnaces, with sibling and bandmate, Matthew Friedberger, Eleanor Friedberger proves herself a worthy artist in her own right throughout Last Summer, her solo debut. While her brother tackles a lavish project involving eight records over the course of 2011, Eleanor’s content to unleash a single LP as consistent as anything she’s recorded. While she may not scale the intense, swerving peaks that Fiery Furnaces records often attain, Last Summer is arguably a less persistently deviating work, riding along a steady groove that pleases from front to back.
Littered with references to Brooklyn culture and day-to-day living in the city, the songs here achieve a sort of every-girl candor that’s ultimately endearing enough to sidestep sinking into laundry list syndrome due to her knack for a spooling, catchy hook and her smooth, airy vocals. While she may occasionally have the tendency to get a tad noodly with her arrangements, for the better part the vaguely jazz-colored, bumping indie rock she’s perfected over the years shuffles along with a winning, cheeky spirit that’s both full of heart and quirks. On album opener and lead single, “My Mistakes,” she conveys regret and bravado with equal aplomb amidst a melody as catchy as anything in her back catalogue. While she dips into electro-pop and funky carousing in scattered portions throughout the record—stretching out in languid but often thrilling detours in a pitter-patter manner—the strongest cuts here adhere to the basic template that holds the album together.
“Glitter Gold Year” melds slightly pounding pianos with a strutting vocal melody, giving off a shoulder-shrugging impression that belies the theme of the song. “Scenes from Bensonhurst,” possibly the best of the bunch, has an aching hook that floats amidst the sparsely ornate arrangement like a crest of melancholic wonder. For fans clamoring for fresh Fiery Furnaces material, they could do a lot worse than Last Summer, an appealing seasonal affair that’s as inviting as a cool breeze. (www.eleanorfriedberger.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 9/10