Eleanor Friedberger – New View
Released January 22nd, 2016 on Frenchkiss Records
Eleanor Friedberger is best known as being half of indie also-rans The Fiery Furnaces, who once did an entire album with their grandmother. She is also the muse behind “Eleanor Put Your Boots On” by Franz Ferdinand, and “Anything You Want” by Spoon. She’s never been one of the more enticing songwriters on my radar, which is why 2013’s Personal Record was such a surprise. That album showed that Friedberger had a finely tuned sense of pop urgency, a bouncy sense of melody tied into tight arrangements that were undercut with a sort of jittery nervousness, like the songs had all been up too late drinking large amounts of coffee. Some of the tracks bordered on the anthemic, and despite my lack of enthusiasm for The Fiery Furnaces Personal Record ended up on my year-end list for 2013.
Most of what made Personal Record so great is missing on New View. The airtight arrangements have been replaced with drawn-out jams that border on early Neil Young a lot of the time (including the spacey, one-note guitar leads). It’s a rambing, homespun album that keeps Ms. Friedberger’s interesting sense of phrasing and lyrical bent and ditches everything else. In an interview with The Guardian, she said “I hope that this album just sounds like an adult woman who’s okay, as boring as that sounds!” Eleanor, the concept does sound boring, and the execution does it no favours. Surely there must be something that’s bothering you. Art is about communication, in its essence; if you don’t have anything to say, why bother saying anything? Furthermore, if you don’t have anything to say, why draw it out as much as you do on New View? Another pop record in the vein of Personal Record might have made the lack of theme in the songs more palatable; as it stands, it makes New View completely forgettable.