Fiery Frunaces, White Magic | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Fiery Frunaces, White Magic

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I was bowled over by my first listen to Blueberry Boat (Rough Trade), the second album by New York's Fiery Furnaces; two dozen spins later I'm still trying to get my head around what Oak Park-raised sibs Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger have accomplished. Last year's Gallowsbird's Bark was a magical distillation of a century's worth of American sound; the new recording is just as eclectic but raises the stakes with a collection of miniature epics that change tempos, melodic schemes, and moods from minute to minute. Each one is built around a wildly creative narrative: on the title track a novice sea captain hauling Michigan blueberries to Hong Kong goes down with her ship rather than surrender her cargo to pirates, and the narrator of "My Dog Was Lost but Now He's Found" looks high and low for a maltreated pet only to discover the pooch has found God ("I saw my dog, but he'd seen the light"). Like Gallowsbird's Bark, the new record is filled with parlor piano, guitar left by the side of Highway 61 Revisited, and elliptical melodies sung--with appealing swagger--by Eleanor. But this time the arrangements are front-loaded with jarring electronic textures and patterns, and the band crams more ideas into one tune than you'll hear on most albums. Occasionally they try too hard or bloat the verbiage, but their mistakes all stem from ambition--they remain my favorite rock band.

White Magic is a new trio fronted by Quix*o*tic's Mira Billote; the group's debut EP, Through the Sun Door (Drag City), consists primarily of whimsical, fragile, piano-driven pop that references psychedelic folk and creepy blue-eyed soul in equal measure. They play second and Manishevitz opens. Friday 17, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $12.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steve Gullick.

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