January 24, 2005


The Fiery Furnaces have released (Jan. 11) what they've simply titled, ‘EP’, but that title is misleading, as this is equal to many full-length offerings by others. The ten tracks on the disc happen to contain one song from their first album, 'Gallowsbird's Bark', that song is the remixed single, 'Tropical Ice-land' (All ten tracks were previously available as the ‘A’ and ‘B’ sides of their single releases). Also they’ve seemingly tried to give the 'EP' the same feel as their live performances by running the tracks together; with no pause between the ten songs, it does resemble their predilection for racing full tilt through a live show.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing the brother/sister duo, their music is, I feel, harder to describe than most—abrupt changes in signature, tempo, and the sometimes jarring, sometimes exhilarating, electronic gurgles or wah-wah pedal squawks, keep re-painting the canvas of the songs -- not to mention the changes in melody, creating songs within songs. Matt and Eleanor Friedberger, The Fiery Furnaces, truly are The Carpenters -- the ‘70’s brother/sister pop duo who stood in stark contrast to other acts of their time; such as the dime-a-dozen seedy precursors to The Black Crowes and the‘make love/take drugs’ bands such as The Grateful Dead. The Friedbergers are ‘The Carpenters’ as raised in 90's era Brooklyn—weaned on parlour sing-a-longs, The Who’s concept albums, and indie music. They too stand apart with their rambling odes to dogs, abused women, and typewriters – also the dominating presence of the piano in many songs instantly pushes them away from most guitar driven indie and even mainstream music of today.

These siblings can come across as the quiet, shaggy haired, corduroy-ed, teachers you liked back in grade eight -- who had a cool laid back air about them. Who drove old VW Beetles and whose cardigan or jean jacket had a faint aroma of patchouli -- who were card carrying vegans and slipped up now and again, saying ‘peace’ when you wished them a nice weekend on Friday afternoon. All right that doesn’t help describe the music at all, you’re right... okay, there’s lots of keyboards, piano I mean, dabs of blues-y electric guitar now and again, and the lyrics are narrative -- telling little stories with snippets of recalled dialogue and recollections of events and people met. Many of the songs contain references to British locales and Europe, also New York, home of the duo. Eleanor, I hope, has affection for nursery rhyme type nonsense--children’s songs and their feel-good, but nonsensical combinations of words--as this is what big brother Matt gives her to sing.

This isn’t easy music to get into for most—it usually isn’t when indie music is operating on the experimental/intelligent side of the road. This isn’t the indie version of Hoobastank, more like The Carpenters for the well educated, but under utilized hipster, or the indie music version of ex-pat American novelists living in London, England. A pair of eccentrics who write short stories that keep getting longer and longer until they find a novel lying before them. Keep your eyes open for that ‘novel’; it should be coming around in the next couple of years or so—the author? The Fiery Furnaces, of course.

"Single Again"
from EP

via insound.com

"Straight Street"
"Chris Michaels"
from Blueberry Boat
via roughtradeamerica.com

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