This reminds me of the Auteurs in a few ways. Way #1 is that it's somebody singing in a style that is not their own (Luke Haines sounds like David Bowie and here Matt sounds like his sister (there being more of a laconic lily lilt in his vox here than on his other more whispered contributions to FF stuFF)). Way #2 is that things are a lot more homophonic seeming. Homophonic is a music word that means there aren't a lot of melodies going on at once, just one melody and chords below it. Homophony is the sound of a lot of solo albums, you'll pick up the new Andrew Carl Newman joint for example and say 'something's missing... is it the bass? yeah... oh, hey, so that's what those other band members are for'. Because, A.C., you can't just do C major to F major.*
What Winter Women misses is that other band member sound. Wait, he's singing like his sister. Maybe its missing that other band member input. Being in a sibling band myself, a lot of what this sounds like is the other sibling telling you that your songs are no good and that mom loves them best and that they are a musician and you are a joke, and you change one seemingly miniscule thing and to them it makes a world of difference. And then when you are playing it for somebody else they say 'yeah (that part) is my favorite part of the song' and then your sibling smiles at you some evil smile that you hadn't seen since you were eight and the cranberry juice stain was blamed on you wrongfully, this smile means that you owe them a coke.
And Matt doesn't owe Eleanor any Cokes, but apparently he does owe her a break- it feels like the boss is holding down the office and doesn't have his sassy assistant to make small talk with all the clients and she's really the reason why they call anyway- and in some small way he pitches his voice to sound like her when he answers the phone.
The melodies are much more frequent here and generally stronger. I remember the first night I heard this, my roommate Dylan and I sang along to "Up the River" even though I didn't know we knew the melody - but there in the last repetition we were, right along with it. "Ruth Versus Rachel" has on the other hand a really great chord in the chorus. They both push forward in this way that exists in your heart for coming to terms with bands you were recommended to after you'd heard all of the Kinks albums. Yeah, you paid money for this, and no, it isn't as good as the Kinks and yeah, you've heard those chords and stuff before but, come on, fewer people have heard this and its YOURS.
"Big Bill Crib and his Ladies of the Desert" has a great chords and rhythm pattern that I love and the singing is mostly the same melody throughout but it seems genius. I dig the lyrics also, "it was the rifle brigade, the rifle brigade, with their famous one-armed colonel". "Theme from Never Going Home Again" kind of flings open some European looking windows and stares you into the face threatening you to run for the hills - those ones that are alive with the sound of music. All wet with the dew of the tears you swore you didn't cry last night. It was raining, after all.
"Hileah" is some wreck-you-romantic plaintalking song that just bothers my heart, and it is a stellar addition to the Furnaces catalogue. There are a number of very good songs, and maybe one or two great songs (I'm not going to stick by anything unless there's some sort of online poll) but there's mostly a bunch of bleh-I'll write something kind of songs. I end up not wanting to spend too much time with this album because I feel like it will grow thinner with each listen. The last review I wrote of a Fiery Furnaces album talked about me whittling down the tracklist from my favorite songs to my least favorite, with the least favorite songs getting the most attention- but with this album I felt like if I had done that it would have gone mostly downhill.
So, and pardon me if you aren't familiar with The Auteurs (a band whom I think of whenever I need a comparison for music I almost love,) there's a fair share of 'I like to listen to this because it sounds good' and 'I'm only listening to this because I'm imagining it as better'. Of course, rather than writing about Baader-Meinhof and being stiffed for Mercury Prizes he writes about shit he makes up about going to Benghazi (which I know you haven't been to-MATT YOU LIAR!) and the more typical running away from home/having a lot of jobs in one month stuff that we love because its the fantastic truth - and not just about you, Matt. We've all been there and haven't. B-/10
*The Slow Wonder is an album by Andrew Carl Newman that I heard briefly once and wrote off as 'another one of those solo albums'. Having not heard it since, I feel the exact same way.