Personal Record... Swimsical
Review: Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record
Published on June 14th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
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Rocksucker is pretty much in love with Eleanor Friedberger – one half of profoundly eccentric Brooklyn act The Fiery Furnaces along with her no-less-wondrous brother Matthew – so perhaps we’re not the best placed to give an objective view of her second solo album Personal Record. Sod it: by titling the LP with a pun, and a good one at that, she should by now be virtually beyond reproach. Good thing the tunes are up to scratch, but then you’ll just have to take our word for that; or you could seek them out for yourself, which we most certainly would advise you to.
Personal Record more or less picks up from where 2011’s Last Summer left off: it’s lyrical, humorous, melodic, invitingly quirky, sunnily disposed pop with the idiosyncrasies dialled up just a notch or two from its predecessor, which could only ever play to her strengths. Album opener “I Don’t Want to Bother You” starts with a Ringo drum fill then jumps right into a peculiar sort of electric-piano-hewn reggae-pop that’s infinitesimally more delightful than that description makes it sound, especially when Friedberger throws in lines like “Sometimes it’s like I made you up / One more word and I’ll shut up”.
Lyrically, she’s so entertaining – take “She was wearing a pair of overalls, so I sang ‘Come on Eileen’ / I was being slightly mean, but that just made her smile” from “When I Knew”, for example, or “How could any guy resist / A girl with such a big set list” from “Other Boys” – that you could almost be forgiven for overlooking what a tremendous all-round songwriter she is. That this impression sustains itself through a variety of genre ‘touch-upons’ (the more artistically acceptable face of homage) makes it all the more impressive, the levels of both quality and entertainment seldom if ever waning across such disparate tracks as the jazzy bossa nova shuffle of “Echo or Encore”, the relatively rocky “Tomorrow Tomorrow” and the ornate instrumentation of “I Am the Past”. With regards/in response to the latter of these: more flute, please, world!
How any guy, girl, animal, plant or alien being could resist Eleanor Friedberger is beyond us. Personal Record may not quite be a personal best – at least not if you’re factoring in Fiery Furnaces material – but it’s another triumph for a remarkable family.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
Personal Record is out now on Merge Records.