Eleanor Friedberger is best known in this part of the world for her work as part of American indie rock duo The Fiery Furnaces. Formed with her brother Matthew, the Furnaces released a string of experimental and inventive records between 2000 and 2011 before announcing they would be taking an indefinite hiatus. Both siblings went on to release solo records in the intervening time -Personal Record is Eleanor's second solo release and surpasses anything she has achieved in her music career to date. This is quite simply an outstanding record, and if there is any justice in the world, it should see her garner the same level of respect accorded to contemporaries like Feist and Joanna Newsome.
Friedberger is a song-writer at the very top of her game and her coolly, detached and very modern take on love and relationships has a freshness about it and makes her stand out from the crowd -she crams more smart, incisive lyrical gems into one song than most song-writers manage on a whole album. The wonderful 'When I Knew' charts the development of romance from the instant of attraction through the early stages of love/lust. Friedberger tosses out lines like 'I met her in my bedroom/Oh at a party, Halloween/And she was wearing a pair of overalls/So I sang Come On Eileen' over a galloping beat as the band kick up an authentically 70s feel. Friedberger seems completely cosseted from the current music scene; it is almost like she stopped listening to music beyond the eighties, as she draws on influences from the Adult Oriented Rock of the seventies ('My Own World') through to the distinctly Hall & Oates like pop of the eighties ('She's A Mirror'). If that all sounds a little off-putting don't let it deter you. Friedberger manages to take these influences and turn them into something fresh, urbane and unique. The cheesy, stuttering beat of opening track 'I Don't Want To Bother You' shouldn't work but it does -Friedberger allies a strong melodic sensibility with her talent as a lyric writer to turn these songs into more than the sum of their parts.
Solo releases from members of long established bands can sound racked with a degree of uncertainty, as the artist has the familiar comfort blanket of the band ripped forcefully away from them. Not so with Friedberger. Personal Record is sparkling effort, the sound of an artist completely in control of her chosen medium. Highly recommended for all lovers of smart, intelligent pop music.
Review by Paul Page