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The Fiery Furnaces – Widow City (2007)

November 12, 2007

Quirky brother-sister duo The Fiery Furnaces return with Widow City, their fifth album in as many years. Brace yourself with The Fiery Furnaces. Singer Eleanor Friedberger sounds like a Grace Slick throwback, but this is not your parents’ Jefferson Airplane.

Widow City‘s lyrics are excellently “abstract specific,” giving the most idiosyncratic of lyricists like Van Dyke Parks a run for their money: “…the new school bus assistant snuck in charge of leaving seven sleeping children in their seats, in a trance, induced by air-conditioning” (“More Automatic Husband”). Lyrics are also laced with Arabic references (“My Egyptian Grammar”), prone to wry humor (“save a glacier name for my daughter” from “Navy Nurse”) and speak of ambiguous relationships (“Japanese Slippers”).

Matthew Friedberger’s music is brashly eclectic, restlessly changing about as fast as a ninth grader’s relationship status, and is ultimately unique, if not innovative. Amidst it all, though, catchiness reigns in songs like “Ex-Guru” or “The Old Hag is Sleeping.”

Unfortunately, Widow City seems a bit too disconnected from one track to another to be a landmark album. But, it remains an odd treasure for anyone strange enough to acquire such a brilliantly funky taste in sound or anyone just desperately jaded from modern pop radio. The Fiery Furnaces’ cryptic style either requires rigorous philosophic prodding in order to find truth, or the Friedbergers are just as mixed up as their music implies. In any case, Widow City is for anyone wishing to listen to something they’re not normally hearing in music.

-Jake Kauffman

Listen to The Fiery Furnaces on Myspace