Since debuting in 2003, Fiery Furnaces have attracted two kinds of fans. One group geeks out over Matthew Friedberger’s overstuffed arrangements and his sister Eleanor’s evocative wordplay, while the second group appreciates the gorgeously sad pop songs—“Tropical Iceland,” “Benton Harbor Blues Again,” “Here Comes The Summer”—the duo has occasionally proven so good at creating. Eleanor Friedberger’s first solo album, Last Summer, is an album for the latter group.
On Last Summer, Friedberger shows that her compositional voice is equally compelling when she’s freed from her brother’s watchful eye. This is a varied collection of songs, balancing Friedberger’s tendencies toward melancholy and nostalgia with quirky pop and her trademark poetic detail and speak-sing patter. On the clavinet-supported “Roosevelt Island,” she weaves a tale of a fateful day-trip with the studied energy of a teenage overachiever scribbling memories into her journal. The folky “One-Month Marathon” merges little-girl curiosities with grown-woman necessities: “Can I play in your closet? Can I poke ’round your drawer?”
Few indie-pop songs this year are going to surpass the album’s two highpoints, “Heaven” and the winsome autobiography “My Mistakes.” They’re instantly ingratiating and exquisitely produced piano pop, the sort of timeless ear-candy that makes the phrase “indie Tapestry” sound not too incredibly outlandish.