Live Review: Eleanor Friedberger

Eleanor Friedberger
4 Knots Festival
South Street Seaport
July 16, 2011
Review by David Chiu

The last time I heard from Eleanor Friedberger was about five years ago when she and her brother Matthew as the indie rock group the Fiery Furnaces released their album, Bitter Tea. For myself who had never listened to the Furnaces before, that record was pretty far out and eccentric. So part of me was kind of expecting more of the same on her new solo album, Last Summer (Merge).

To my slight surprise, Last Summer is generally a straightforward record. Sure there is a little bit of the arty-ness that have marked the Fiery Furnaces’ previous sound, but the music is introspective and poppy—the impressionistic descriptive lyrics seem to evoke of New York City and personal reflections on relationships. It is probably one of the standout new albums of 2011 I’ve heard so far.


Backed up by a three piece, Friedberger played a majority of the new album’s songs as part of the inaugural launch of The Village Voice’s 4 Knots Festival at the South Street Seaport Saturday. She kicked off her brief set with “I Won’t Fall Apart On You Tonight,” which got the mood on a rocking note, followed by the upbeat-sounding performances of “My Mistakes” and “Early Earthquake.” At one point, Friedberger mentioned about working as a temp down on nearby Wall Street before launching into “Roosevelt Island.”

Aside from carrying a sound that kind of reminds one of the Velvet Underground’s Loaded, some of the songs also possess a groove feel, particularly the mid-tempo “Glitter Gold Year.” In addition to performing a majority of Last Summer’s songs, Friedberger also threw in a few Fiery Furnaces tunes, including “Lost At Sea” and the punkish, power pop “Tropical Iceland.”

Friedberger and her band sounded great, highlighted by some atmospheric, shimmering guitar playing, and the singer’s distinctive voice. Last Summer is an evocative, mature work that will hopefully garner more critical attention as the year wraps up.

Photos by David Chiu

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