It’s hard to follow The Fiery Furnaces, as their genre hopping and musical expeditions tend to lead followers in several directions, occasionally at the same time. However, you’d be reluctant not to notice the prolific output of the group, and their continuous relevance musically. Their latest album, I’m Going Away, is chocked full of deviating paths and piano-laden hooks.
I’m Going Away beings with a song referencing the title, but it’s more of a statement song, allowing listeners to get just a brief taste of the band’s latest affair shortly before ending. “Drive to Dallas” is the first exemplary song on the album, as the Friedbergers bounce back in forth between lounge piano work and lightning noise-infused guitar licks, just as Eleanor picks the pace of the song up with her vocals. It’s place back to back with “The End is Near,” which sounds an awful lot like it could replace one of the various theme songs from your favorite sitcom of the eighties. You should take a listen to Eleanor here, as her voice is remarkable once again, contrasting against her brother Matt’s as they trade verses and share roles during the chorus. Moments like this come about so rarely, but be thankful for a song such as this.
Speaking of voice, you have to wonder why Ms. Friedberer doesn’t get more love in the vocal department these days. Her vocal range is spectacular, from the lounge-y hints during “The End is Near” to her close Costello approximation on “Charmaigne Champagne.” She goes back and forth across tracks throughout the album, and you can’t help but envy the pipes she possesses.
Coming across “Even in the Rain” you will be pleased to find the band at possibly their most accessible during their entire career. It’s a fairly simple song accompanied by Eleanor’s trademark poetry and very light percussion. In fact, it almost sounds like the sort of song you might find (or wish) that Wilco was creating nowadays. Similarly, “Ray Bouvier” hits at the hearts of listeners, gentle in progression and light in its texture. The bare bones of the group appear to be the brightest this go round, and the entire album bursts forth thanks to this approach.
Epic songs such as “Take Me Around Again” or “Lost at Sea” surpass expectations of what one expects from a long Furnaces song. After years of honing their skills, they group seem to bring it all in closely, barely deviating as far as we remember them doing on various other numbers. It’s this newfound ability to hold back and focus that seems to have created some of the stronger songs on this side of the band’s career.
I’m Going Away is the most accessible Fiery Furnaces record to come out in a long time, largely driven by piano driven tracks and an ability to hold back the reins when the band would normally go into a schizophrenic foray into the outer realms of our pop indulgence. It’s good from front to back, and you know you won’t complain about that.
Download: The Fiery Furnaces – The End Is Near [MP3]