This band was hyped in multiple music publications, mostly because Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger bear a resemblance to Jack and Meg White of The White Stripes. But The Fiery Furnaces is nowhere near as interesting as the Stripes musically.
Eleanor Friedberger's singing is the worst I've heard this year on a record, a stiff, tonally thin bray that gets on your nerves quickly. It's not like the piercing bark of Shannon Wright, who makes it work on her uptempo songs by virtue of sheer passion. And it's not like Kathleen Edwards' lithe croon, which draws you in with gentle vibrato and superior melodies. Eleanor Friedberger just sounds like your average karaoke non-singer, with no clear sense of phrasing and enunciation, and her vocal incompetence sinks the music, which draws from certain cabaret and showtune traditions and mixes it with folkish instrumentation with a punk edge. The music could have been interesting in a do-it-yourself kind of way, but having to listen to that voice is sheer torture.
Amy Lee of Evanescence has been attacked for having undergone extensive vocal training, allegedly at the insistence of her label. Well, this kind of diligence and artistic shaping is what Eleanor Friedberger needs. And maybe she will cite "punk integrity" and continue on her current path. In which case, count me out.