album reviews

The Fiery Furnaces
I'm Going Away
Thrill Jockey (2009)

Kindred spirits: Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground

Judging from the Fiery Furnaces' lyrical density and frequency of album releases, singer Eleanor Friedberger is never at a loss for words. "I'm Going Away" is the eighth album she has released with brother Matthew (who plays guitars and keyboards) since 2003, and it continues her tradition of Patti Smith-esque, stream-of-consciousness singing.

However, where the group made esoteric choices in the past (2005's "Rehearsing My Choir" was based on recordings of their grandmother's ramblings), "Away" stands out in its relative simplicity. Eleanor is as wordy as ever, but these dozen songs are remarkably cohesive: The album relies more on straightforward pop hooks than on wacky piano riffs or ranting lyrical tangents.

"Keep Me in the Dark" smolders with intrigue, while Eleanor's jazzy ba-ba-bas on "Charmaine Champagne" meld nicely with Matthew's piano flourishes. The siblings mesh especially well on "Drive to Dallas," which features Matthew's voice prominently and shows Eleanor leaving some welcome spaces between her words. It's a refreshing change for the Furnaces, and it makes their typical weirdness just a little more accessible.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 7 August 2009
.: I'm Going Away on