First Listen: Eleanor Friedberger, 'Personal Record'

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Eleanor Friedberger's new album, Personal Record, comes out June 4. i i

Eleanor Friedberger's new album, Personal Record, comes out June 4. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist
Eleanor Friedberger's new album, Personal Record, comes out June 4.

Eleanor Friedberger's new album, Personal Record, comes out June 4.

Courtesy of the artist

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As half of the brother-sister act The Fiery Furnaces — presently on hiatus — Eleanor Friedberger indulges some of her artier and more experimental, unpredictable impulses. As a solo artist, she's the epitome of subtle, un-showy cool. Friedberger's first solo record, 2011's Last Summer, was a marvelous exercise in nostalgia; the dryly sweet musical equivalent of a 35-year-old Polaroid. On Personal Record, out June 4, her palette expands to include a wider array of themes and perspectives, while she maintains a minimalist-cool sound that's sweet, simple and timeless. Friedberger wrote Personal Record with singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding, who knows a little something about smart love songs of every stripe.

As a vocalist, Friedberger's dryly flat affect has a slight tremble to it, with appealing plainspokenness to match arrangements like the one in "When I Knew," in which even the handclaps are muted. There's a lot of air in the sweet ballad "Echo or Encore" and elsewhere; she keeps enough spareness in these songs that when she switches up the formula — as in the lush choruses of "She's a Mirror," the bouncy strum of "Stare at the Sun" or the flashes of distortion in "Tomorrow Tomorrow" — the joys and surprises hit that much harder.

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