Saturday, July 4, 2009
Album Review : Fiery Furnaces "I'm Going Away"
Several months ago, my boyfriend checked the Fiery Furnaces’ “Bitter Tea” out from the library. This was my first exposure to the band, and I didn’t know whether I liked them or not. The arrangements were schizophrenic, the subject matter bizarre, and altogether gave a feeling of being piecemeal but somehow whole at the same time. On a second listening, however, they became a fast favorite, and I quickly got hold of everything by them that I could.
It should come as no surprise that when Thrill Jockey asked if Crappy Indie Music wanted to review ‘I’m Going Away’, their forthcoming album, I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t disappointed.
In a few ways, I’m Going Away is a departure from their earlier work. The instrumentation is simpler – heavy on guitars and piano, and as far as I can tell, not a synth in sight. The arrangements are also more straightforward – most every song is based on one riff and chorus, and they tend to hold the same tempo throughout, or change gently, rather than the abrupt shifts often found in former works. The album retains some of the band’s identifying characteristics – though gentler and simpler, the song structure is specifically their style, there is a frenetic feeling throughout and of course Eleanor Friedberger’s distinctive voice. This is one of my favorite things about the Fiery Furnaces – when I think of a female indie singer, I expect to hear something high and wispy like Isobel Campbell (who I like, too, don’t get me wrong) – but Friedberger has a deep, rich voice you would more often hear singing the blues. “I’m Going Away” has a bit of a bluesy, roots music feel to me, in fact.
I liked all the songs on the album, but a few standouts are “Drive to Dallas” which starts out slow and piano heavy and busts into a delightfully unexpected classic rock type wailing guitar solo, “Charmaine Champagne”, which is like a female Ted Leo’s celebration of a lounge singer, and "Staring at the Steeple", which while not making much literal sense, provides the ambient feeling of a supernatural murder mystery.
At first I was a little bit sorry that “I’m Going Away” wasn’t more weird and wacky, but it’s a very good album in its own right. If you’re already a fan of the Fiery Furnaces, you’ll want to check it out, and if you’ve never heard them, it’s an enjoyable, accessible introduction to a band worth knowing.