Highlights: When I Knew, Tomorrow Tomorrow, You’ll Never Know Me, She’s A Mirror, Other Boys
I still refuse to believe this is the Eleanor Friedberger who was once part of The Fiery Furnaces. Can’t be. In fact, I’d rather believe this is Chrissie Hynde doing a clever undercover act. It’s not about ‘better’ – it’s about ‘different’. Her brother Matthew, for instance, hasn’t changed one bit, and you only need to take a quick look at his discography from two past years to see what I mean.
Well, enough with the dramatics. Eleanor’s second album is a personal record indeed – even more so than the already personal Last Summer. Here her lyrical punches are more fragile and direct. There’s no sexual vagueness of “Inn Of The Seventh Ray” (still one of my favourite songs of 2011) – she basically lets it all out; all the remorse, anguish, frustration of her past relationship(s). One of the songs is actually called “I’ll Never Be Happy Again”, for Christ’s sake.
Musically, it’s more of the same. Eleanor does a more soulful version of Chrissie Hynde, and I’m happy with the arrangement. The voice is that sexy combination of jazzy and playful, and it works perfectly against the handsome guitars that go from gentle (“I Am The Past”, “Other Boys”) to bouncy and lush (“She’s A Mirror”, “Stare At The Sun”). There’s some brass and piano – but more like pretty augmentation than the actual backbone. Also, speaking of piano, that terrific piano line from “Echo or Encore” was definitely stolen from a Nick Cave song – not that you should mind, of course. Most of all, however, I’m impressed with Eleanor’s melodies. The catchy “Tomorrow Tomorrow” and “She’s A Mirror” are both classic pop songs, but her more soulful, oblique stuff (like the wonderful “You’ll Never Know Me”) is just as gripping.
I don’t mind personal records – as long as the person in question is interesting enough. Eleanor Friedberger is. A very stylish album and a sure top ten candidate. My only fear is that with this kind of accomplished songwriting there might be little room for improvement… Anyway, let’s see what this Alex Kapranos guy has to say for himself.