When: Fri., June 7, 9:30 p.m. 2013
Her brand-new second album is called Personal Record (Merge), but Fiery Furnaces singer Eleanor Friedberger has stressed that the songs aren’t about her. Whether they are or not, though, her writing is stronger then ever—the record’s recurring themes emerge from specific details and connect broadly. On “I Don’t Want to Bother You” the narrator works through the pain that a lover’s chronic absences bring her, gradually convincing herself that he’s a jerk; “I’ll Never Be Happy Again” consists of terse studies of a series of couples weathering the inevitable evaporation of new love’s exuberance (“And after perfection / It’s all downhill / With no time to stand up and no time to sit still”). “When I Knew” is packed with vivid memories that seem to belong to close friendships (“They said we both liked weird music / And she played me Soft Machine”), and on the gentle bossa-flavored “Echo or Encore” the singer plays with double meanings, longing to be enveloped by a lover or by music. Friedberger’s plush, unfussy voice and imaginative phrasing bring her melodies to life, and her band caresses them with sparse, crisp drumming and flickering bits of guitar, saxophone, and keyboard. Despite the 70s pop flavor of much of the music, it remains totally contemporary—with the exception of “She’s a Mirror,” whose 80s groove sounds borrowed from “Maneater.” Friedberger keeps getting better, and I suspect she’s a long way from topping out. —Peter Margasak Teen and Videotape open.