There are few things in life as exhilarating as a new album by The Fiery Furnaces. Establishing themselves as one of rock music's most consistently engaging, exciting and thought-provoking bands, The Fiery Furnaces made up of core brothersister duo Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger are well-versed in creating an album that manages to balance melody, originality, and a seemingly endless arsenal of instrumental ideas. Since their debut, Gallowbird's Bark, was released in 2003, The Fiery Furnaces have challenged the notion of what makes a song, weaving aural fragments into tenminute- long opuses that take any number of melodic turns. Their songs often transcend categories redefining the pop song through their rapidly changing tempos and inventive sound selections- almost as quickly as Eleanor can spit out proper noun-laced lyrical gems, often so otherworldly, that they border on magical realism. While the band's sixth LP, Widow City, is rooted in the Furnaces' aesthetic of challenging conventional notions of timing and song structure, the record is absolutely unlike any other LP in their expansive and brilliant repertoire. In fact, Widow City, their first for Chicago's renowned Thrill Jockey Records, features some of the finest, catchiest Furnaces compositions to date. We'd be up for putting money on it if you don't agree.
On their fifth full length (and first for indie stalwarts Thrill Jockey), Fiery Furnaces have finally made an album that reconciles their need to make literate, strangely fashioned art-pop with their pummeling and super rocked-out live shows. It's tempting to wish that at least a few of these puzzling tunes could have fewer parts and to concentrate on the pleasant melodic elements more, or maybe just not switch back and forth between the piano-based songs and the guitar-based ones. But that's a bit like showing up at a MENSA party and complaining that folks are using too many big words; baroque, over-fashioned, and over-thought post-modern pop is what this duo does. On Widow City
, the good-looking brother-sister team does it better than they ever have. This record's delightful and wholly original; no one else could possibly have made it. Reveling in a playground based on distorted riffs and deep space synths from the era of "album rock," their distended sounds swim about like hundreds of liberated sea monkeys. --Mike McGonigal