Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer

by Rich Morris Rating:9 Release Date:2011-10-10

Picking up were her day job The Fiery Furnaces let off with their last album, 2009's brilliant I'm Going Away (leaving aside Take Me Round Again, a compilation of reworkings released shortly after), Ms Friedberger's first solo album is a rootsy, piano and guitar-led collection full of intimate moments and effortlessly great songwriting. Home-spun and dust-flecked, the songs have the surface quality of Americana fireplace confessionals.

Beneath the denim-clad rattle 'n' roll, however, Friedberger's lyrics are as elliptical and slippery as ever. Who else could casually drop in a exclamation like "Let's study the stonemasonry, lady!" or ask the listener to "imagine Christopher Walken as a dancer named Ronnie". While the album's concept is apparently a recollection of her move to New York a decade ago, the images are scattershot and deliberately vague. It's certainly no Lou Reed style love letter to the city, although the mesmerising 'Owl's Head Park', with it's spoken word vocal and dream-like ebb recalls 'Coney Island Baby', probably Reed's last classic song.

There's the same kind of fullness and warmth to Last Summer's sound which made I'm Going Away such an instantly loveable joy, while songs such as the tootin' 'Early Earthquake' and 'Inn of the Seventh Ray' are permeated by similar frayed edges and a fretful, restless air. Elsewhere, standout track 'Heaven' is just beautiful, a simple doo-wop flavoured pop song, like Dum Dum Girls stripped of the fuzz.

It's ably back up by the Lennon-esque 'I Won't Fall Apart on You Tonight' and 'Glitter Gold Year', which sounds like a headachy, hungover Kate Bush (and that's a good thing). Then there's the sunshine funk of 'Roosevelt Island', which somehow proves the perfect backdrop for Friedberger's stream-of-consciousness, 'dear diary' rant. It's gotta go down with Jarvis Cocker's 'You're in My Eyes (Discosong)' as one of the great counter-intuitive disco tracks.

Overall, the production has a certain mid-70s to early-80s US MOR vibe to it which make it feel instantly vintage and accessible, luring you in before hitting you with the tricksy sonic effects of the excellent 'My Mistakes' (which comes complete with its own 'Baker Street' style sax solo - again, a good thing!) or dark mumbles about "slicing up your head, Daddy" (the moody, uneasy 'One-Month Marathon'). Last Summer is a great gown-up pop record. It's also, quietly, fucking weird. If Last Summer was someone who just moved to your neighbourhood, you'd fancy the pants off them at first, then do your best to steer clear after you realise just how messed up they are.

As an album, however, Last Summer is everything you could want: a near-perfect statement of gently experimental, instantly memorable music, packed with secrets which you'll want to spend hours lovingly unwrapping.

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