Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer (Merge)

One half of brother/sister duo The Fiery Furnaces, Eleanor Friedberger bravely embarks on her solo career with debut Last Summer.

Released Feb 6th, 2012 via Merge / By Larry Day
Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer (Merge) Friedberger is more used to singing alongside frantic experimentations on concept albums with her brother than delving into her own style. Making the move from avante-garde rock to wistful 1970s inspired indie-pop is ambitious and thanks to Friedberger's Midas touch, it works flawlessly.

Born and raised just outside of Chicago, Illinois, it's curious that most of the album is spent pondering the pleasures of NYC. Last Summer conveys a very American atmosphere- elements of motown, funk and country permeate the folk-laced indie and weave memories of years past, leaving a nostalgic taste in your mouth long after the last beat is played. 'Heaven' could easily be whisked straight from the lips of Joplin with it's piano heavy melodies and gorgeously smooth harmonies. With echoes of The Fiery Furnaces, discordant synths and reverb-slathered vocals litter the track and drag it back to modern times- although it still bears an uncanny resemblance to the female singer-songwriters of forty years ago.

'My Mistake', the acoustic summer strummer which kicks off the album, is a docile beast to start with, working up jangling chords and eternal synth backing into a slippery, saxy anthem for 'July in Central Park'. Carefree and fun, it's no surprise that Friedberger has had more than a modicum of success with this spangling gem.

Telling personal stories with her familiar silken voice, she manages to sound painfully vulnerable at the same time as having a subtly apathetic nonchalance to every word that spills from her lips. However, this is by no means a gloomy album. Every effort has a silver lining, most noticeably on 'Roosevelt Island'. The usually hardened exterior of Friedberger crumbles here, as you hear her spit bitter lyrics; yet the funktastic bass line ripping through the heart of the track picks up every piece she drops.

This magnificent first attempt from the fairer Friedberger combines popular American genres with contemporary chilled-out indie to create a sublime summery record. Filled with references to landmarks in the Big Apple, the album is a veritable treasure trail of her memories. Downright honest, at times desperate and often harking back to the tunes of yesteryear, this astonishing debut is a pleasure from start to finish.