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The Fiery Furnaces: Widow City

Widow City is as much a trip to a musical rummage sale as any previous Fiery Furnaces album, and siblings Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger wrap their finds together with growing efficiency. In fact, the hints of clumsiness and chaos save the Friedbergers from getting too cocky. The bouncy "Ex-Guru" gives way to a lurching mutant orchestra for about 30 seconds, and then much of the mystery is gone again. As on previous records, The Fiery Furnaces earn repeated listens on hooks and convoluted storytelling alone, though 2003's Gallowsbird's Bark and Bitter Tea hold more surprises. They group still creates songs that constantly attack themselves with new sections and rhythms—"Cabaret Of The Seven Devils" finds an especially strong balance between "irritating" and "loveable"—but something's easing the transitions here. Maybe it's Eleanor's vocals, which relish love, bitterness, and fear alike with the flip tone of a big kid telling the younger kids a ghost story.


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