By Nancy Woo
Since 2000, The Fiery Furnaces, a New York-based brother and sister duo, have been confusing and astounding listeners with a bold array of conceptual albums full of electronic experimentation and dynamic, energetic sounds that seem to intentionally thrust the listener into a tornado of frenetic anticipation.
Oftentimes, the music involves strange Nintendo-like sounds, screeches and groans, impending sounds of doom, pounding distortion, angry organs or other nerve-wracking artistic techniques, then will abruptly change tempo, rhythm or instrumentation, moving into melodious piano sequences or calmer vocals. It is keeping-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat experimentation that some might unkindly and ignorantly compare to nails on chalkboard, but these are nails that seem to be scratching deeply beneath the surface at... something. Whether we know what that is or not, The Fiery Furnaces keep us wondering what will come next, and we appreciate them for that. And they beat the pants off Animal Collective. Hands down.
Just listen to this one song and notice your senses on high alert for danger. Also note the hypnotic effects of the visuals (video not associated with the band). Careful, don't slip entirely away...
The next surprise in store from half of The Fiery Furnaces will be a debut album by their vocalist, Eleanor Friedberger. Her first solo album, Last Summer, will be out on Merge Records July 12th, 2011.
Departing from the otherworldly style of the Furnaces, Eleanor’s upcoming album is a little lovelier and more accessible for casual listeners, allowing her the free rein to indulge in the more pop-inspired style of choruses from the Furnaces. The first single, "My Mistakes," combines the homegrown alto of Friedberger with a fast-paced guitar riff, background synth and brass outro. It's the kind of song you want playing with the top down as you speed around fast turns just as day begins to break. Eleanor, a multi-instrumentalist, promises to deliver just as dynamic a solo album as the collaboration with her brother, in her own, possibly more down-to-earth way.
The idea to create a solo album came about after she and her brother recorded a compilation of cover songs from their previous nine albums, each one stoking their own creative interpretations. With this freedom cropped up the idea to record songs she wrote in her spare time. This album, their press release says, is more like an artist "kicking off her shoes and settling into a big comfy chair with an acoustic guitar, a glass of scotch, and a four-track."
But don't worry! This does NOT mean the Fiery Furnaces have been extinguished. Put down your matches (not everyone can play with fire like the Furnaces) and just listen to the first single, "My Mistakes."
Or visit Eleanor's cheeky and endlessly amusing website here. The tagline? Last Summer... improves on silence... this summer. Also this summer, Eleanor will be touring to promote the album. Dates to be announced.