Archive for the ‘ALBUMS’ Category

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In the case of New York based Gracie and Rachel, the duo originates from California, fusing the calmness of the Pacific with the chaos New York can imprint on a mind. Their latest video for the track “(Un)comfortable” is a melancholic black and white four minutes, driven by both rich, layered violins (provided by Rachel), and ethereal vocals. The video displays both Gracie and Rachel, but they are never acting together, essentially existing on different planes. It’s a needed look at coexisting, the act of being supportive but separate as well.

Regarding the video, Rachel added, “Gracie’s perpetual motions are shown as both fractions and extensions of herself that may want to hold her back but ultimately can propel her forward. Without tangibly interacting, the varying entities guide one another through the acceptance of different forces.” The two met at a dance class in high school, and this extra talent in their life shines through– their motions are effortless and poised, exactly what their music exudes.

Band Members
Gracie Coates (lead vocals, piano),
Rachel Ruggles (violin, vocals)

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Sheer Mag’s Compilation LP features the Philadelphia rock band’s three 7-inch records, released between 2014 and 2016. All 12 songs were recorded onto the same vintage 8-track tape machine, as it was carted to various locations around Philadelphia. The first two were produced in a makeshift studio wedged between two bedrooms in the band’s former South Philly house. The third came out of a practice space in the Port Richmond neighborhood. Sequenced chronologically, the newly remastered songs reveal a young DIY band finding its sound. Sheer Mag are the only band of recent times that manages to sound like a mix of a classic Seventies rock record, power pop and an obscure English DIY 7″ from the late 70’s. Everything sounds scrappy, fuzzy and scuzzy and it’s all the better for it. The riff packed guitar work and fuzzed female vocals sit perfectly together whilst the crude rhythms just adds bounce and basic beats. The compilation was mastered by Josh Bonati and all three EPs were mixed by Hunter Davidson. The LP is packaged inside an embossed Gatefold sleeve with a heavyweight printed innersleeve.

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Reissue of 2013 album. Stories Don’t End the third outing from breezy Los Angeles-based retro-rockers Dawes, takes its name from a line in author Joan Didion’s 1984 wartime novel Democracy. It’s an enigmatic phrase to be sure, but it certainly applies to the group’s penchant for crafting highly literate slabs of smooth, West Coast Americana out of the highway wreckage left behind by artists like the Eagles, the Little River Band, Poco, Jackson Browne, and Gram Parsons. Less overtly Laurel Canyon-centric than 2011’s Nothing Is Wrong, due in some part to the East Coast Blue Ridge Mountain locale in which it was birthed, the album keeps the band’s classic rock underpinnings intact, yielding a fresh catch of smooth and soulful, largely midtempo offerings that focus on substance over style, relying primarily on the strength of the tasteful, measured arrangements and bandleader Taylor Goldsmith’s easy voice and crafty wordplay. Stories Don’t End barely registers upon the first spin (it’s easy pop for the millennial generation), but if given the time to percolate, it produces a damn fine cup of coffee. This adherence to familiar singer / songwriter tropes is best exemplified on tracks like the rolling From a Window Seat (Rivers and Freeways), which echoes Midlake’s Roscoe, the Ben Folds-esque Just My Luck, and the lovely, mid-record ballad Something in Common, the latter of which frames Goldsmith’s tale of hope and heartache in the reassuring glow of vibrato guitar, simple kick and snare,

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Whiteout Conditions, the new full-length record from critically acclaimed supergroup The New Pornographers, is released via Caroline and the band’s own imprint, Collected Works. Of writing the new record, founder and frontman A.C. Newman notes that, “At the beginning of this record, there was some thinking that we wanted it to be like a Krautrock Fifth Dimension. Of course, our mutated idea of what Krautrock is probably doesn’t sound like Krautrock at all. But we were thinking: Let’s try and rock in a different way.” Since their debut in 2000, The New Pornographers have released six studio albums including their most recent, Brill Bruisers.

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Something’s changing in Lucy Rose. After two albums of feeling her way through the densely-populated landscape of contemporary singer-songwriter music she has picked a point in her career when most people are recycling their hits to bin the satnav, head off the map and commit to a graphically authentic version of her musical self. Sometimes you have to lose yourself to re-invent yourself.

Mark Mulcahy’s brand new album on limited edition coloured vinyl. Mark Mulcahy (Polaris/Miracle Legion) released his first album in four years on Record Store Day 2017. Titled ‘The Possum in the Driveway’ it’s 11 songs of all new material on limited edition gold vinyl. Produced by Scott Amore. Released on The Mezzotint Label.

Initially released to coincide with Record Shop Day , we’re a little late out of the blocks with the Miracle Legion frontman’s latest solo venture, but then, The Possum in the Driveway is an album that benefits from a little time to bed in and take root.

Compared to 2013’s Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You, Possum feels alittle more daring and deliberate attempt to reach further and broaden scope: to play many parts. “Stuck on Something Else” opens the album with a hushed reverence before Mulcahy’s voice takes hold: bold, purposed and drenched in a reverb that ensures its ghost remains imprinted – a quiet and knowing reflection.

It’s musical theatre, but with the jazzhands cut off

The Mariachi thrum of “I Am the Number 13” sees Mulcahy adopting an altogether different persona, vibrant vibrato masking an underplayed, yet convincing, menace. It’s musical theatre, but with the jazzhands cut off and cloying sentiment kept in check with a gag. “The Fiddler”, meanwhile, showcases a more soulful side. Particularly the point at which it joyfully steals the coat off the back of Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” and, rather than trying to cover up the crime, wears it home with a confident swagger of someone who knows they wear it well. It’s a ballsy move that is both playful and convincing.

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In places buoyed by driving beats and horns (the funk of “Cross the Street”), in others pulled along by an impressive emotional current (the jazz-tinged album closer “Geraldine”), this is an album that consistently surprises and, more often than not, delights. This is no scattergun approach, however: though initially seemingly disparate, Mulcahy’s voice joins the dots throughout the collection and creates a picture bigger and more complex than the individual milieux he’s assembled here.

As well as an impressive and expansive addition to his canon, it seems entirely likely that the impressive breadth and studied craft contained within Possum will see Mulcahy’s reputation as a songwriter’s songwriter – Thom Yorke, REM and J Mascis are all firm fans – extended far further. Quite right, too.

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Charm of Finches are sister “dream folk”duo Mabel and Ivy, aged 17 and 14 from Melbourne, Australia, and produce harmony-laden chamber tinged folk for the famished soul. Influences include First Aid Kit, Agnes Obel and Sufjan Stevens.  Two talented young artists/sister duo in an airy, chamber folk style which emphasizes lyrics. Melbourne based dream-folk sister duo Charm Of Finches have had a massive year so far, launching their album “Staring at the Starry Ceiling” and picking up some high profile support slots around the country.

Their debut album “Staring at the Starry Ceiling” features the duo’s signature angelic sibling harmonies, with a distinct chamber-folk flavour coming from the instrumentation: cello, violin, guitar, ukulele, lyre, banjo, piano, glockenspiel: all played by the sisters, now aged 16 and 13.

The “singing finches” have played Australian folk and roots festival stages since releasing their debut EP “Home” in 2016.

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Charm of Finches are Mabel and Ivy Windred-Wornes
All songs written and arranged by Charm of Finches

Live in Vancouver [2 CD]

Four months into the band’s 1970 Roadhouse Blues Tour, The Doors lit up Vancouver like the Northern Lights with an incandescent performance ignited by a rollicking set list, and blues legend Albert King, who sat in for four songs. Rhino and Bright Midnight Archives capture every shining moment with ‘The Doors – Live In Vancouver 1970.’

By 1970, the Doors in concert were a blues band. Jim Morrison had turned from psychedelics to beer and the edge in his voice proved that his demons were catching up with him. Many tapes have surfaced of this latter-day period and each performance reveals its own surprises. Blues legend Albert King adds slide guitar to Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love,” Barrett Strong’s “Money,” Muddy Waters’ “Rock Me” and Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” for a blues set that may be the Doors’ finest. Their own “Roadhouse Blues” comes out swinging and “Five to One” never loses its power, with Robby Krieger always finding a few dramatic lead guitar licks. Morrison finds his inner mystic for “When the Music’s Over,” a tune that never loses its anthemic drive. “Light My Fire” expands into nearly eighteen minutes of song and free associations while “The End” fulfills its promise with its slow eighteen-minute build. The recordings were made by the Doors’ tour manager, who placed two microphones on the stage. It’s quite authentic and powerful.

The debut LP from Boston indie rock band Palehound is inspired by leader Ellen Kempner’s breakup. But like her former camp counselor and roommate, Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, Kempner never lets a sad jam wallow. Her songs are full of odd little about-turns that elevate Dry Food above the usual plainspoken acoustic indie fare.

On 2013’s Bent Nail EP, Palehound’s Ellen Kempner sang about taking a carrot for a pet in order to stave off late-teen loneliness. She makes similarly childlike gestures on her debut album. “You made beauty a monster to me, so I’m kissing all the ugly things I see,” she seethes at an ex in a so there voice on Dry Food’s title track. It’s the most deliciously futile form of revenge and reclamation: doing the opposite.

Dry Food is partially a product of the 21-year-old Boston-dwelling songwriter’s first big breakup—the deeper kind of solitude of having known and lost someone. Its sound captures the Herculean efforts required to survive the ensuing slump: “All I need’s a little sleep and I’ll be good to clean and eat,” she sings in a medicated sigh on “Easy”, her acoustic guitar rising and dipping with the methodical pace of someone trying to make a new routine stick. But like her former camp counselor and roomate Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, Kempner never lets a sad jam wallow: she kicks the end of the song into shape with a zippy electric guitar motif and some awkward, itchy squall.

It’s followed by “Cinnamon”, which takes the opposite tack, hooked around the kind of amiable, waterlogged psych burble that Mac DeMarco noodles in his sleep. Kempner sings dreamily about her worst self-defeating impulses, but is stirred from her reverie by a divine revelation that her life is becoming “a pretty lie”. Frantic drums force the song somewhere agitated and ascendant, but instead of bursting into some bright new phrase, the furor falls away like a captivating slo-mo bellyflop.

Kempner has a knack for these odd little about-turns that elevate Dry Food above the usual plainspoken acoustic indie fare. And like her old roommate, she often obscures her intentions between appealingly twisty language. “Mouth ajar watching cuties hit the half pipe/ I only feel half ripe/ Around healthier folk,” she sings on “Healthier Folk”. She distils her disgust at her own post-breakup malaise with perfectly understated images: “The hair that’s in my shower drain/ Has been clogging up my home,” she sings on “Dixie”. “And I try to scoop it up, but I wretch until I’m stuck.” It’s maybe the most straightforward song here, just fingerpicked acoustic guitar, but she messes at it like a cat dragging a mouse into a dark nook.

Saddest of all is closer “Seakonk”, where Kempner protests that she’s not alone, actually; she’s home watching TV with her parents, sister and their dogs. There’s a blithe fairground pirate ship sway to the song, which she closes with a jaunty “doo doo doo” that could have come from the credits of one of the cartoons she’s watching—only she lets the final note deflate with a groan. It’s at this point that Dry Food confronts the point it’s been evading: kidding yourself is no way to recover, and comfort offers little impetus to move on. Palehound’s discomfiting, unflinching debut suggests she knew it all along.

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New Orleans newcomer Benjamin Booker’s debut lives and breathes the Deep South, from the Chuck Berry references (most effective on opener ‘Violent Shiver’) to the slower, more hushed tones of ‘I Thought I Heard You Screaming’, 

Benjamin Booker makes music that sounds like someone threw a match into a box of fireworks: bright, furious, explosive garage rock that’s liable to set a house on fire. Fighting out of New Orleans, the 24 year-old has already played Letterman and Conan and been tapped to open for Jack White on his latest string of dates all absent a debut album, which finally was released on August 19th via ATO Records. Roiling with bloozy guitar licks, soaring Hammond organs, and Booker’s moonstruck vocals — dude’s a howler, yet his scuffed up croon is equally compelling on smoky ballad “Slow Coming” — the self-titled release may end up a contender for rock record of the year. Crank “Violent Shiver” at your next house party. It’ll liven the place up, if not burn it down altogether.

News: Benjamin Booker signs to ATO, releases a track, plays Letterman

 

 

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The sophomore album from Boston trio Palehound, A Place I’ll Always Go, is a frank look at love and loss, cushioned by indelible hooks and gently propulsive, fuzzed-out rock.

Ellen Kempner, Palehound’s vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter explains, “A lot of it is about loss and learning how to let yourself evolve past the pain and the weird guilt that comes along with grief.”

Kempner’s writing comes from upheavals she experienced in 2015 and 2016 that reframed her worldview. “I lost two people I was really close with,” she recalls. “I lost my friend Lily. I lost my grandmother too, but you expect that at 22. When you lose a friend—a young friend—nothing can prepare you for that. A lot of the record is about going on with your life, while knowing that person is missing what’s happening—they loved music and they’re missing these great records that come out, and they’re missing these shows that they would’ve wanted to go to. It just threw me for a loop to know that life is so fragile.”

Palehound’s first release for Polyvinyl is also about the light that gradually dawns after tragedy, with songs like the bass-heavy “Room” and the gentle dreamy album closer “At Night I’m Alright With You” feeling their way through blossoming love. “The album is also about learning how to find love, honestly, after loss,” says Kempner.

Since forming in 2014, Palehound Kempner, drummer Jesse Weiss (Spook The Herd), and new bassist Larz Brogan (a veteran of Boston DIY who, Kempner posits, “had 13 local bands last year”)—have taken their plainspoken, technique-heavy indie rock from the basements of Boston to festivals around the world. A Place I’ll Always Go was recorded in late 2016 at the Brooklyn complex Thump Studios with the assistance of Gabe Wax, who recorded Dry Food. “I would put my life in his hands,” Kempner asserts. “I trust him so much.”

Palehound in this episode of the Pickathon Slab Series.

A Place I’ll Always Go builds on the promise of Palehound’s critically acclaimed 2015 album Dry Food with songs that are slightly more reserved, but no less powerful. “Flowing Over” rides a sweetly hooky guitar line, with Kempner using the fuzzed-out upper register of her voice as a sort of anxious counterpoint to the riff’s infectious melody. “That song is about anxiety,” says Kempner, “and when you’re sad and you listen to sad music to feed it and feel yourself spinning all these ‘what if’s and ‘I’m terrible’s in your head.”

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“This record represents a period of time in my life way more than anything I’ve ever written before,” says Kempner, who notes that the swirling “If You Met Her” and the piano-tinged “At Night I’m Alright With You” could represent the opposing poles of the record. “One of them is about love, and the other one is about death—it was a really healthy experience for me to find my own dialogue within that,” she says. “There’s so much that you learn and read, and other people’s experiences that you internalize, that you try to then base your own on. It was helpful to carve my own path for that.”

Part of what makes A Place I’ll Always Go so striking is the way it channels feelings of anxiety — heart-racing moments both exhilarating and crushing — into songs that feel well-worn and comforting.

The hushed confessionalism of “Carnations” and the fugue state described in the stripped-down “Feeling Fruit” are snapshots of moments marked by big, confusing feelings, but they’re taken with compassion and honesty—two qualities that have defined Palehound’s music from the beginning.

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Audience recording from the Richfield Coliseum in Cleveland Ohio, on April 28th 1977. limited edition of a tape close to being excellent, virtually free of hiss, trebly and overloaded at times. The tape shows wear occasionally and presents cuts and edits almost in its entirety. The band is upfront and the clarity of the instruments is very detailed, the bass is a little indistinct at the end. The cuts and edits eliminate most of Plant’s comments, miss the first few seconds of many songs, cause tape disturbances when the recording resumes and interrupt two tracks in progress. Before Nobody’s Fault the taper curses as he informs he is having problems, a squeal precedes the first cut, when the recording resumes the first few guitar notes are missing.

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In My Time is cut briefly in the final vocal a cappella and joined to the last phrase of You Shook Me. No Quaaludes, as introduced by Plant, is cut during the second vocal theme and joined to a couple of seconds of the wha-ed guitar episode, and finally cuts out. Audience noise is minimal, a wise guy is introducing the songs to his mate! s before Plant, an irreverent yell of “this sucks!” in Over the Top ,and the taper cursing again in Stairway; there’s some mumbling in the quiet moments, but nothing really annoying. This is a superb gig, the pacing and playing, together with the very enjoyable recording, make for a listening treat. Page is precise, concise and powerful; Jonesy is all over the place; Plant’s vocal gymnastics are strong from the beginning to the end and seems genuinely touched by the audience’s response; Bonzo is frightening, he seems to destroy the drum kit in every track, the recording captures particularly well his crushing presence. Collectively is the same story, the enthusiasm does not let up a minute, every piece receives special attention and there are no lazy moments. In My Time features great introductory licks to the guitar leads; No Quarter features amazing interplay and Jonesy’s most inspired piano playing. Ten Years is overloaded by the loud twelve-string and cymbals, Achilles by the drums, even distorting the tape, but both are very clear. Tape wear is evident in Over the Top, Kashmir and Stairway; there’s a little distortion in the encores: Rock and Roll, Trampled. Despite these deficiencies, the performance is not affected at all and allows its enjoyment. This show should restore the faith to detractors of this era. 

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The tape for Zeppelin’s second night in Cleveland is one of the strangest.  The tapers were located a ways from the stage, they were experiencing problems with their equipment, and he and his friends were not shy about expressing their opinions throughout the entire show.  It is also obvious one of his friends attended the previous evening’s concert and liked to tell the others which song is coming next.  Despite these obstacles this is considered one of, if not the best, audience document outside of the tapes for Los Angeles.  Its reputation is due to it being very clear and powerful.  Zeppelin was the perfect band to use the Richfield Coliseum’s questionable acoustics to their advantage and the result sounds like battery artillery storming the beachhead to the delight of a packed house.

This tape has been known as The Destroyer since it was released shortly after the event [I believe it might have been as much as a year later or more].  It was first released as a vinyl box set on the Smilin’ Ears Records label complete with the famous painting of the warriors huddled on top of one another.” [collectorsmusicreviews.com]

Recorded 28th-Apr-77 Cleveland, The Second Night

Audience recording from the second night at Richfield Coliseum in Cleveland, OH – 28th April 1977 apparently one of the best performances on the whole tour. Released in 1978; originally sold for $22 via the Pied Piper bootleg catalog.

THE DESTROYER
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Side 1: The Song Remains The Same – Sick Again (14:11)/ Nobody’s Fault But Mine (5:36)
Side 2: Since I’ve Been Loving You (17:24)
Side 3: Guitar Solo medley incl. The Star Spangled Banner – Achilles Last Stand (18:21)
Side 4: White Summer medley incl. Black Mountain Side – Kashmir (15:31)
Side 5: Ten Years Gone (8:56)/The Battle Of Evermore (5:25)/ Going To California (4:19)
Side 6: Black Country Woman medley incl. Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp (7:00)/ Trampled Underfoot (6:19)/ Rock & Roll (3:54)
Side 7: Kashmir (17:13)
Side 8: Over The Top medley incl. Out On The Tiles/ Moby Dick (16:25)
Recording: Very good mono audience. Taped on platform usually used for television camera for sports broadcasts. “All the cuts exist for two reasons: the taper was trying to save tape, and the recording was done on 60 minute (30mins per side) cassettes. ”  Comments: Deluxe box set. Two different covers. Two audience sources exist for this date.

Master tape in detail:
01. The Song Remains The Same (beginning cut) 03:44
02. Sick Again 07:05
03. Nobody’s Fault But Mine 07:17
04. In My Time Of Dying 11:37
05. Since I’ve Been Loving You 09:43
06. No Quarter (cut at 05:07) 20:45
07. Ten Years Gone 10:05
08. The Battle Of Evermore 06:27
09. Going To California 05:14
10. Black Country Woman 01:42
11. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp 05:42
12. White Summer (cut at 00:29) 03:45
13. Black Mountain Side 01:34
14. Kashmir 09:34
15. Over The Top 17:26
16. Noise Solo (cut at 10:06) 10:10
17. Achilles Last Stand 10:28
18. Stairway To Heaven 11:44
19. Rock And Roll(beginning cut) 04:12
20. Trampled Underfoot 06:59

 

From 2003 until 2011, over the span of six studio albums, an EP, plus a double-disc live extravaganza, and hundreds of live shows, the Oak Park, Illinois a suburb of Chicago siblings Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger wrought a polarizing, idiosyncratic iconography; by and large, audiences were either reveling in the cavalcade of inside jokes, or they were resolutely weren’t.  formed in 2000 in Brooklyn New York.

While garage rock and blues were the Fiery Furnaces’ core idioms, they weren’t afraid, over time, to wrangle pop, prog, musical theater, folk, gospel, tinny-ass carnival spew, and hard rock into a mod-indie equivalent of Choose Your Own Adventure paperbacks, if said paperbacks were cheekily ghostwritten by Thomas Pynchon or David Foster Wallace. Double-stitched with baffling turns of phrase and dizzyingly archaic verbiage, each song — sung by Eleanor usually; performed by Matthew mostly — rendered a separate world teetering precariously between exaggerated caricature and waking reality. The lyricism was millennium-era-Ghostface gratuitous, sold by Eleanor with a go-for-broke panache so courageous that, on albums like Widow City and Blueberry Boat, it felt almost globe-conquering — flip, far-ranging, esoteric, mean-spirited, and sympathetic. What couldn’t the Fiery Furnaces do? Where couldn’t they lead anyone who cared to tag along as banks of keyboards, organs, and synthesizers squelched merrily from one absurdist, maddeningly specific scenario to the next? Their potential, at times, felt downright limitless .

The Fiery Furnaces issued six studio albums over seven years, a productivity rate familiar to Woody Allen and rock bands in their stride in the 1960s and 1970s. Then they toured behind these records, each of which was no-fucks-given weird and batshit bonkers its own special way. During all of this, Matthew cut and released 2006’s Winter Woman/Holy Ghost Language School, a double album that was essentially the Fiery Furnaces sans his sister — all the while dropping hints that, someday, his sister would make amazing solo music. Then, from its title on down to the song names, 2009’s I’m Going Away was very plainly the writing on the wall. By the time the band’s spigot stopped flowing, two conflicting emotions were at play: a sense of unwelcome deprivation and a feeling that maybe, yeah, everyone (band and audience) needed to enjoy a respite from the breakneck Fiery Furnaces roller coaster.

In the years since, Eleanor made good on the solo career Matthew anticipated; while 2011’s Last Summer and 2013’s Personal Record can’t approach the no-holds-barred pluck of the Furnaces at their prime, Stare At The Sun almost legitimizes the hiatus, and may just be the most narcotic tune anyone associated with this band has ever produced. Matthew, meanwhile, decamped for Europe, cut a series of limited-edition or otherwise obscure LPs, and drifted away from the cultural conversation, resurfacing to form last year. Longtime Furnaces sidemen Jason Loewenstein (of Sebadoh) and Bob D’Amico continue to tour (and slay) as Circle Of Buzzards. Life goes on; it’s just not as audaciously strange as it was when the Furnaces were inescapable. To paraphrase so many The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe entries, whether or not Matthew and Eleanor opt to reactivate the band “remains to be seen. Eleanor released her third solo LP, New View, which seems like as good a reason as any to look back at the catalog of the band that introduced us to the Friedberger siblings and their considerable talents.

The band released their fifth LP, entitled “Bitter Tea”, in April 2006. In interviews they stated that the album was influenced by the sound of synthpop group Devo, and Eleanor Friedberger stated the album was “definitely the poppiest thing we’ve done “Bitter Tea” their difficult album, their David Lynch movie.” Now as at the time of release, “Bitter Tea” confounds so thoroughly that drawing a thematic bead beyond, say, “an exceptional, lovesick EP buried within an impenetrable, drug-damaged LP” is next to impossible. It’s like sitting down to a delicious bowl of Cream Of Wheat festooned with dead weevils; it’s as though Matthew and Eleanor wrote a handful of direct, soul-bearing pop songs and then, feeling a bit naked and abashed, took great pains to muddle and obfuscate them. (Sometimes — sometimes — I wonder if I’d feel a mite differently about this if they’d waited a full two calendar years between studio albums, whether I was suffering some sort of Furnaces fatigue.)

From the oil-slick fricassee of “Black-Hearted Boy” to the snapped-synapse zap of “Nevers” to the title track’s beat-switching mania to how “The Vietnamese Telephone Ministry” courts Satanic noise, Bitter Tea scans as a gross over extension, everything sabotaged and back masked as fuck, with needless reprises piled on top. Yet — yet — “Waiting To Know You” is glowing, torch-song pop despite detritus cluttering the bottom of the mix; breakneck Gamblers Anonymous travelogue “Borneo” somehow becomes more exhilarating with each listen; “Teach Me Sweetheart” is a career-topping marvel of sensual simmer and psychosexual tension; “Police Sweater Blood Vow” is primo fake electric Dylan. The band did a short tour in October and November 2006, supported by San Francisco rock band, Deerhoof. This tour saw Matthew on keyboard, Eleanor on vocals, Jason Loewenstein  on wah-wah guitar, Bob D’Amico on drums and the addition of Micheal Goodman on percussion. The songs had a tropical feel to them, and most of the tracks from “Bitter Tea” were played as one long song, lasting 30 minutes—a medley format the band previously used

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In a sense, Tea is almost the Furnaces’ Wowee Zowee — the album where warts and dimples get equal time. But the record’s shortcoming — i.e., the band’s indecisiveness, neither going full-on pop or willfully scuttling and defacing every beautiful note — is ultimately what lands it in the least enviable slot in a “Worst To Best” feature.

The Fiery Furnaces’ approach to live performance was to transform a generous catalog into a strenuous, Naked Lunch-esque exercise, squishing a handful of bars and verses from several songs together, often sacrificing entrenched melodies and cadences and erecting bizarre new creations in the process. Depending on the listener’s temperament — or, possibly, inebriation level — this willful upsetting of standard live behavior was exhilarating, confusing, or off-putting. On the one hand, it assumed (perhaps dangerously) a serious commitment and degree of patience on the audience’s part; on the other hand, it likely kept the band invested in national and international tours that stretched for weeks. The digipack for Remember, compiled from 2005, 2006, and 2007 shows, boasts an eye-roll worthy admonition: “Please do not attempt to listen to all at once.” And sure, fair enough — two discs and 132 minutes of recontextualized Furnaces will try the patience of the staunchest fan. Sometimes the set can seem more like a provocation for a specialized game of Name That Tune than a way to immortalize a particular vision of this band. At other moments, Remember actually surpasses the chestnuts it’s lovingly roasting: injecting “My Dog Was Lost But Now He’s Found” with a sweaty, pulse-pounding urgency; reimagining “Tropical Ice-Land” as Scooby-Doo zombie funk; turbo-charging “Black-Hearted Boy” with faux Wurlitzer. Still, 19 times out of 20, when I feel a Furnaces craving coming on, Remember isn’t what I reach for.

The band’s Eighth studio album “I’m Going Away” was released in the US on July 21, 2009, on Thrill Jockey Records and the UK on August 24, 2009. A second album, Take Me Round Again , which presents many of the same songs from “I’m Going Away” in a new way, was released on November 10, 2009. These tracks were made individually by Mathew and Eleanor, resulting in some overlap. These songs have the same lyrics as “I’m Going Away”, but consist of completely new instrument and vocal recordings that give a new take on the same material.

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An LP-length “Dear John” letter if there ever was one, I’m Going Away wears its dolor with a characteristic schizophrenia. This means that “Drive To Dallas” breaks up its teary downbeat guide with psychedelic guitar pyro and plaints that verge on mania, and that there are a pair of ecstatic barnburners about partying with a girl named “Charmaine Champagne.” It means that identity-crisis ballad “Lost At Sea” dips and swings so sweetly that the whammy bars and cymbal smashes wash away the tears as they bury this album’s semi-subtextual lede: This is the Fiery Furnaces bidding adios to us, and to one another, at least for a while. Thematically and lyrically, I’m Going Away is arguably Matthew and Eleanor at their most direct and straightforward; there’s a dearth of bizarre musical experimentation, and decidedly less irony than usual. These songs feel like pre-Brill Building standards; it doesn’t require much imagination to picture pick-up bar bands, hard-luck chanteuses, and emancipated church singers absolutely slaying audiences with a heartstring-riffling bit of like “Even In The Rain.” (“Staring At The Steeple” is a bit darker, but it’s a better fit here than any other area of the catalogue.) The Furnaces’ latest (and perhaps last) album feels loose yet coherent, warm yet straitlaced, possessed of a bummed-out jubilation. And, sure, it’s a pinnacle of sorts, but one you’ll rarely revisit for pure pleasure, since it’s a reminder that rowdier work proceeded it and that (more than likely) nothing will succeed it.

A collection of singles and compilation cuts, EP arrives in January 2005 the band released a 41-minute compilation disc named EP . It featured two new songs, all of the band’s singles and B-sides (with the exception of an alternate version of “We Got Back The Plague” found on the “Tropical Ice-Land” single), and was for this reason a contrast to the epic and, according to some, inaccessible nature of Blueberry Boat. almost by default; for all their electrifying zest, no cohesive theme unites these 10 nuggets, and it’s impossible to reconcile them with what’s included on the proper LPs. The ironically autumnal “Here Comes The Summer” is bled, curiously, into the bizarre “Evergreen,” wherein vocal and performance alike seem to be succumbing to the effects of a natural poison. With “Smelling Cigarettes” the Furnaces expand their range of grotesque suburban miniatures; on “Duffer St. George” they extend their passport for the weakest of their customs stamps. There’s also a wily, semi-backmasked reprise of “Tropical Iceland” that makes the Gallowsbird’s Bark version seem staid in comparison. Meanwhile, “Sing For Me” suggests a vintage Candy Land game board transmuted into song, and for the first and last time in the Fiery Furnaces mythology, Matthew gets the stage all to himself.

 

Widow City is a rock record with synthesizer assists that is very loosely about a libertine who killed (or wants to kill) a loathsome toad of a husband and elope with her girlfriend; the telenovela-esque narrative is unclear in the way that the through line of the Aeon Flux animated series is fuzzy. None of which matters when the result is this rich, arch, mischievous, and non-Bitter Tea. Cherry-pick just about any number here and you’ve got a winner: the tremulous, heroic “Duplexes Of The Dead”; “My Egyptian Grammar,” drenched in digital harps, near-dub, and girl-group chagrin; the valorous Valkyrie funk of “The Cabaret Of The Seven Devils”; the marvelous, babble-mouthed jabberwocky of “Pricked In The Heart.” City’s sole failing, despite a bevy of tracks that clock in under three minutes, is its length.

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It’s worth wondering — from my perspective, anyway — whether the Furnaces’ career would have continued to build steam had they constrained themselves from Tea forward to short, strong albums 30-35 minutes long with no more than, say, 10 songs. In June 2007, it was announced that the band had signed with Chicago labe Thrill Jockey Records and their album “Widow City” was later released on October 9th, 2007. Unlike their two previous efforts, this album lacks a central concept and has a 70s rock album feel. The band toured in support of the album throughout the later months of 2007 and early 2008. A live compilation album, “Remember”, was released on August 16, 2008.

The Grandmother Album, as it is colloquially known, clocks in at about an hour. This is significant. Gallowsbird’s Bark rang up at a respectable 46 minutes and change, pushing the envelope of sonic propriety just slightly; Blueberry Boat ballooned out to 76 minutes but was so captivatingly crackers that nobody noticed. Rehearsing My Choir (released in October 2005), saw the band return to an experimental sound once again. A concept album featuring the Friedbergers‘ grandmother, Olga Sarantos, narrating stories about her life, Rehearsing My Choir was met with widely differing opinions from both the press and the band’s fans, being branded “difficult” even by those who rated it highly. Sarantos previously worked as choir director at a Greek  Ortodox church, and her croaked reminiscences form the backbone to this peculiar, piecemeal storybook of an album. Jason Loewenstein of the band Sebadoh and Bob D’Amico took over band duties for the supporting tour,exists in a strange temporal nether-region where, depending on your temperament, it’s: a) way, way too long and totally unlistenable, b) very rough going, or c) perfect. On Choir, the Friedbergers cede the Captain’s chair to Olga Sarantos, their then-83 year-old-grandmother. Eleanor is (willingly) reduced to a character and Greek chorus queen, while Matthew’s compositional mode shifts from “whacko boogie-woogie” to “demented Prairie Home Companion score.” The narrative ping-pongs around 20th century Chicago, powered by wicked gleam in Sarantos’ eye, her tongue (probably) firmly in cheek; this is her show, a bygone diorama of love letters, dicey lunch counter, factories doubling as brothels, and no-fucks-given historical revisionism so warped and zany that copies of this album should be distributed free to every person on the verge of becoming a grandparent. The drubbing Choir takes among fans makes some sense: Sarantos’ Larry “Bud” Melman-esque voice, a lack of anthemic cuts, the fact that by 2005 the internet was already in the process of sanding the average listener’s attention span down to nothing. My personal suspicion is that as Furnaces fans age, their appreciation for the album’s twists and turns will rise, not to mention what the album represents: two indie-rock titans pretty much winning at indie-rock and then teaming up with their elderly grandmother to cut an LP that celebrates her and sheds light on the wiseacre genes her grandkids rode into a specific iconography. No, Choir is probably never going to tear it up when you and the squad are driving to the shore, but throw it on the next time you’re staring down a long drive to visit your parents; you might be surprised how moved you feel, and you might reflect on how far removed the world of your youth — hell, the world of five years ago — is from where you find yourself, right now.

For anyone arriving at Gallowsbird’s Bark Released in 2003 the raw, primal punch of this debut release may come as a shock. Not fully comfortable with the notion of the studio-as-instrument, Eleanor and Matthew leaned hard on a Lo-fi, juke-joint spontaneity; spiced with distorted guitar and whimsical keyboards, Matthew is primarily responsible for the band’s studio instrumentation and songwriting, while Eleanor handles the majority of the vocal duties. almost every song here is a near-nonsensical expression of fun or play-acted steeple-chase for the open-hearted kidult to mumble psychotically on endless commutes or during board-meeting lulls. The gentle, generous “Bow Wow” could slip unremarked upon into a Sesame Street Live revue. “Inca Rag/Name Game” explodes piano-recital silliness into amplified-blues trawl. “Crystal Clear” and “Leaky Tunnel” dash so breathlessly through free-associative shit-fits that it’s possible to miss the giggles and twinkles embedded in the scenery at first. Most interesting — and overlooked, critically — is the way “I’m Gonna Run” and “Two Fat Feet” adroitly nudge weight-associated self-shaming into a realm so deeply Dali-esque that external fat jokes lose much of their sting. While Blueberry Boat has earned every plaudit it receives, the Furnaces would never quite nail the joyful spirit of this ramshackle album .

The Fiery Furnaces, released their second album, “Blueberry Boat”, in the summer of 2004. It is also often interpreted as a multi-layered concept album and their most transcendent, come across as at least 94 percent disengaged from the here and now. Sonically, narratively, and personally, the ideal versions of Matthew and Eleanor are space aliens or time travelers in self-denial.

Blueberry Boat represents the apex of this notion an LP that by every account should fall flat on its face; it could only have worked on an indie label. (It’s also almost 80 minutes long; if Boat came out now, it’d have a much harder time finding and keeping an audience. an album featuring a meandering epic (“Chief Inspector Blancheflower”), a shaggy-dog ramble predicated on “dog” being an acronym for “god” and vice versa (“My Dog Was Lost But Now He’s Found”), and a peppy, idle piano ballad about being kidnapped into white slavery (“Spaniolated”). Boat is like a mansion where every space is designed in a garishly different manner but the whole is somehow implausibly welcoming even though it should be terrifying.  “Quay Cur,” the ten-minute lead track on Blueberry Boat, switches from dirty, gurgling organ to slide guitar-fueled ditties, pulsing electronic beats, highlighting the Fiery Furnaces’ variety in songwriting. Some critics, however, interpreted this type of material as evidence that the album is unfocused. The epic nature of the majority of the songs made them unsuitable for radio play so the band prepared “Single Again,” a take on a traditional folk song as a substitute.

The title track fever-dreaming disjointedly through a John Barth novel rewritten by Garrison Keillor; “Chief Inspector Blancheflower” and galumphing “Chris Michaels” trolling the America of Maury; vertigo-suffering “Mason City” hopping into a DeLorean to explore 1910; skeletal curio “1917” and synthesized crack-puff “Birdie Brain” .

Every moment here is an uneasy triumph, even when they involve random snatches of Inuit and clashing, Wolf Eyes-grade cauldrons of noise. Yet a reflective sadness surrounds every boarding of Boat, too, because in the wake of this LP, nothing the Fiery Furnaces accomplished would be quite as startling or left-field. that vital spark of lunatic invention every musician would kill to ignite.

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The Fiery Furnaces went on an extended hiatus following a brief 2011 tour. Their final concert before the hiatus was on May 27, 2011 at the Primavera Sound  Festival in Barcelona.

On July 12th, 2011, Eleanor Friedberger released her first solo album, titled “Last Summer” . She released her second album “Personal Record” on June 4th, 2013, and her third, “New View” on January 22nd, 2016.