Thursday, November 19, 2009

Burning Off Steam with the Fiery Furnaces

In my cello lesson Tuesday night, I noticed my A string was near the breaking point, bringing on a bunch of warped jokes between my instructor and I about broken strings and snapped-out eyes. The more I thought about it, though, I realized how much we're all under constant pressure, chafing against the bridge every day, in danger of snapping and altering our vision irreparably. I'm often frustrated by the time-suck known as my job—which is about as much fun as a cello string in the eye—and wish I could devote more time to writing and getting paid for it. Fortunately, I'm lucky in love, music, art, health, and everything else, which takes the edge off the daily eight-hour clock watch.

For the Friedbergers, also known as the Fiery Furnaces, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting songs is their snapped-string escape. Earlier this month the brother/sister duo of Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger released Take Me Round Again, a collection of reworked tracks that's being described as "the Friedbergers cover the Friedbergers." The siblings chose six songs from their eighth album, I'm Going Away (July 21, 2009), and each rewrote the tracks separately—Matthew in Michigan, and Eleanor in New York—before compiling them as a sort of covers record. The only remaining identifiable elements of each track are its lyrics.

(album art for Take Me Round Again)

"Keep Me in the Dark" (Eleanor's version)

The Friedbergers have been rewriting songs live since they first started touring together in 2003. Some of their previous albums have a gimmicky concept behind them, and their recent plans to release a Silent Album, which will consist of sheet music they'll ask fans to play for them at shows, is no exception. Whatever. As long as they don't go busting any strings.


  1. Matthew Friedberger has to be one of my favorite musicians right now. Granted, not all of his arrangements are successful, but he's one hell of a keyboardist, and not too bad on the wordplay to boot. Just keep him away from singing.

    I saw them live about a year and a half ago in KC, but the audio was really whacky, all bass and drums, which was disheartening since they had a glockenspiel that was drowned out in the mix.

  2. Sounds like it had potential to be a good concert...minus the drowning out of the poor little glockenspiel.