REVIEW: Eleanor Friedberger – New View (Frenchkiss)


Tracklisting: He Didn’t Mention His Mother / Open Season / Sweetest Girl / Your Word / Because I Asked You / Never Is A Long Time / Cathy With The Curly Hair / Two Versions Of Tomorrow / All Known Things / Does Turquoise Work? / A Long Walk

Do you remember the time that you first heard Neil Young’s On the Beach or Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue? Great lost albums from 70s troubadours that had already reached legendary status before their multiple pleasures were again available to the masses and able to penetrate your expectant ears? To listen to New View, the third album from Fiery Furnaces’ elegantly eclectic chanteuse Eleanor Friedberger, is to finally unearth a pristine copy of a stone cold classic from some long forgotten super group of Laurel Canyon refugees brimming with familiarity yet still capable of leftfield surprise. A gratifying flight through one of music’s most creative decades piloted by New York’s best kept secret.

Ditching any last remnant of “difficult”-era Furnaces New View’s 11 tracks sparkle with aural pleasures promising to propel Friedberger from muso darling to full blown pop sensation. As she reels off a never ending list of interrogations to a new paramour during the sprightly “Because I Asked You” it’s not hard to imagine this being her “Ironic,” a rousing anthem for empowered women, destined for 3am sing-a-alongs and rom-com soundtracks. Meanwhile, the astonishing “Sweetest Girl” bristles with solidarity as she pleads; “Sweet girl with the broken heart, stop crying so I won’t start” before crashing through a bombastic chorus replete with enough spine-tingling moments to make you forget you’re listening to a musician born of hipster art-rock.

New View doesn’t try anything fancy, doesn’t pretend to be the newest kid on the pop-up strewn block, it simply offers up incredible tunes detailing relationships and their influence on song writing. Opener “He Didn’t Mention His Mother” starts the morning after the night before with Friedberger in the first throes of a new romance. “I feel just as crazy as I did last night” she giddily exclaims before admitting: “Today I’m frozen, but tomorrow I’ll write about you”. It’s a compelling glimpse into the mind of a songwriter on top of her game taking inspiration from all around her. Meanwhile “A Long Walk” takes an overview of an entire affair and reimagines it happening over the course of just one day. It’s a charming country-tinged romp full of wry humour as Friedberger delights in the details; reminiscing about the way “we kissed in front of strangers like regular lovers do”.

It’s hard not to draw comparisons whilst listening to New View and when those comparisons are the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, and Love it’s also hard not to view them unfavourably. How can you expect to walk tall against such luminaries? Yet, somehow Eleanor Friedberger does just that. This is an album steeped in tradition but one that holds its own with gleeful ease. You can feel the freedom in the playing and in the song craft that has been afforded Friedberger since leaving the Gotham metropolis to make home in upstate New York. No longer tied to scenes and fashions she has shaped a record so full of well acquainted magic you’d be forgiven for initially dismissing it as naïve plagiarism. But do so at your peril, as New View only takes guidance from the past at any moment capable of taking the road less travelled to form something entirely fresh.

“Your Word” conjures a truly startling vocal as Friedberger channels a furious Arthur Lee; almost spitting her defence of a wronged comrade: “She came to me in deep distress, torn with jealously and rage” before having it laughed back in her face with a callous: “You know nothing about cruelty, then he sees he’s being cruel”. It’s a mystifying turn of events accentuated by dizzying Wurlitzer, a rollercoaster in free fall, a crescendo of betrayal. The breathy ballad “Never is a Long Time” recalls Christine McVie but never strays into pastiche whilst the lively “Cathy with the Curly Hair” is all perfect 70s MOR before bursting into celestial glory.

New View highlight though, is the delicate “All Known Things”, summed up by the breathtakingly romantic line: “your beauty stands alone, amongst all known things”, and backed up with the casual reassurance: “even if you had a twin I wouldn’t notice her or him”. Written for an as yet unseen reworking of an Andy Warhol silent movie starring Edie Sedgwick, it was added to the album due to Freidberger’s fondness for its poetic simplicity. The fact that its inclusion doesn’t jar is testament to the classic song writing touches present throughout New View; Friedberger revelling in the mastery of her artistry.

New View is not an album to over analyse or dissect, it’s an album to celebrate, to devour and to fall in love with. Quite simply it’s a modern classic and you need it in your life.

Rating 4.25 out of 5




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