Fiery Furnaces: EPRemind me to write something later about how this album so perfectly mirrors my life right now.
First of all, I'm not thrilled with the Furnaces sound, especially on this record. Everything recently is sounding too harsh and a little bit amateur. Its not enough that the pianos and synths and guitar are played masterfully and layered magically in "Sing For Me", they could stand to use a little bit of soul. Matthew and Eleanor, however hard they try, do not provide this soul. The way the Furnaces work, Eleanor is the red hot coal in the belly, she's either red hot or smoking. Physical attractiveness aside, these qualities are not things that I particularly care for in a vocalist. She is either obvious like a train wreck, or slightly less obvious, like a train wreck clean-up crew. So when Matt comes in, its like water being doused on the burner, he is a welcome change, but not because he is a good singer.
This album is like my life right now. Everything is going really whimsically and smartly and attractively but I'm not sure how I feel about it. I listened to this album today in lieu of Heroic Epic, which was the best thing I could have done today (besides watch Holy Mountain
in the library, which was the awesomest movie ever. EVER.) I went down the hill to get a pop and found myself not disagreeing with the EP. I got it as soon as possible, December '04, having previously only heard "Evergreen" (loved it) and "Single Again" (hated it). I found a few more songs to like on it "Here Comes the Summer" and "Smelling Cigarettes", but the coherence didn't find me. The coherence found me a few times, driving home from Christmas in Sacramento, you know, but I haven't really immersed myself in it like I have the other Furnaces albums. Today, I got all shaky on the way to getting the shakes and enjoyed the Furnaces, almost on a profound level.
When I took to it at the beginning of this quarter as a remedy for the blues, it didn't take. The tone was (and still is) too harsh, as much as I love the lyrics and some of the keyboard playing. Since then, I have found ways to appreciate the record. First, there's the Shibuya-Kei drums that are sprinkled hither and thither, which remind me of Pizzicato Five, OMD, and many other bands whose names I don't know. There's also the bass, which is sounding more and more informed that hey, maybe continents exist outside of the top of the Americas. The piano, as always, tinkles with a Charlie sheen and the rest of the synthesized sounds have you guessing as to the size and birthdate of the keyboard in question. Then, there's the progression of songs within themselves, like "Sing For Me", where the only movement is adding instruments in. I feel like I have some sort of desperation connection with Matt, like we don't know how to make good arrangements, so we come up with kinds of arrangements.
I hate "Duffer St. George" but by now I've gotten used to "Single Again" and enjoy it in that start-off-the-album way, kind of like I like "Monday Monday" from the first relevant self-titled Fleetwood Mac album. I don't really hate "Duffer St. George" that much. It might be my third to last favorite Fiery Furnaces song (coming just before the two cover songs). I like where they go with their little tangents, like in "Cousin Chris", where the warbling keyboard part tries to hold up the song with a melody and kind of does. I like how "Sweet Spots" could be a new direction for the band, but really its just a B-side. But really its just a really good B-side. At least as I remember it. It conjures up quite the attractive mental image when I'm not actually listening to it. That's the thing with this album. So many times this calendar year I've reached for it but then not put it on. I don't want to get lectured anymore by those zany siblings.
I'm not going to talk about the lyrics. I like the pitchshifted vocals that open "Sullivan's Social Slub". I also like the title of it. I like that the vocals are reversed in "Tropical Iceland (better than the Gallowsbird's Bark version)". I like that Matt sings, even if that's all it is; Matt singing. I'm not going to say anything about them being kids, but there's certainly a homeschooled feeling about this, in a negative way. Homeschooled in the way that you know the kids have no idea how to handle themselves when they go into the outside world and so they engage in a lot of self-dialogue, coming up with things that they have to try and find the common ground between: themselves and everyone else.
They don't know where they are going, and they might not be going anywhere deep. The masterpieces on this are only masterpieces of ideas, and kind of not that great to listen to. Its audacious, but so is the 28 cat song medley that Mike and I did at the Shop Show this weekend. Anybody can be audacious, but it takes a talent to make you lose yourself mid-walk. With this album I always know where I'm going. It actually anticipates where I know I'm going. It anticipates itself anticipating going where I know I'm going.
So here's the beans: Best album of the year so far. They've got two more tries.
Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins
This is number two. It isn't as good at Satanic Panic in the Attic because it is simpler and more stupid. It is better than Satanic Panic in the Attic because it looks delightfully shallowly backwards to the hep-steppin' nineties where bands like AR Kane and M.A.R.R.S. ruled the earth and the eighties seemed like a good idea. Fine Young Cannibals, kind of. There are a lot of eighth and sixteenth notes on programmed cowbell presets that I really like and support.
There aren't any great songs on here. There are a few songs where its like 'oh yeah, way to go in a different direction with things' but they never really reach the pinnacles that they reach on SPITA. There's the few blatant dance-pop songs, like Wraith Wrapped in Mist or whatever, The Party's Crashing Us Now. And then there's the songs, those amalgams of whatever's good, like that Oslo in the Summertime and the Closing Song, which, for a glorious second becomes a Queen song. Phew, Rah and all that.
The opening track says it all, though, they've got that strummy deal and bump bump drums. Hey, wait a minute, this is almost as good as the Strokes. Hey wait, there's a strokes album coming out later this year that is going to blow everything away. Still crazy after all these years.