Eleanor Friedberger – New View
Analysis of techniques like phrasing tends to be reserved for jazz vocalists, but it’s certainly apt for Eleanor Friedberger. Dating back to her years as the frontwoman for sibling duo (plus perpetually shifting sidemen) the Fiery Furnaces, one of Friedberger’s defining traits has been her slightly off-kilter lyrical cadence. Since venturing on her own these quirks have become less showy – brother Matthew’s lines required more lingual gymnastics – but remain one of her charms, and one of her few constants.
New View is a subtler album than Friedberger’s first two solo outings. There’s no irresistible tune like “My Mistakes” from Last Summer, or “When I Knew” and “My Own World” from Personal Record, to draw you in. But it’s also a more consistent record, and possibly a better one. Friedberger has penned a series of mid-tempo tunes reminiscent of the New Pornographers, or more precisely their myriad offshoots dabbling in the brainy fringe of mid-70s AM hit radio (for some reason Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” keeps popping into my head). The closest thing to a change of pace is the cleanly-picked pastoral folk of “Never Is a Long Time,” its mellow vibe briefly sidetracked by the bombast of what sounds like tympani.
Friedberger’s lyrics have taken a turn for the oblique, most of them seemingly reflecting on the end of a relationship. It’s an unexpected shift from her usual hyper-specificity – including the collaborations with Wes Stace (aka John Wesley Harding) on Personal Record, but a successful one. She hasn’t lost her penchant for the oddball phrase, though- at one point she wonders why a suitor would want to “treat me like a tennis pro.”
It’s also arguably closest to her Fiery Furnaces past. There’s the contrarian streak (the defiantly anachronistic guitar leads on “Open Season” and “Two Versions of Tomorrow”) and the hairpin turns of songs that merge into one another. And don’t overlook the teasing wordplay on “Cathy with the Curly Hair,” the album’s peppiest track with a chorus that rhymes care/there/dare before stepping back from the brink with an “Mmmm, Mmmm” rather than tritely resolving with the title.
New View doesn’t make much of an immediate impression, but I find myself repeatedly coming back to it – I suspect it’ll remain in rotation for some time.