ALBUM REVIEW: Friedberger creates a ‘Personal Record’

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First Posted: 6/10/2013

You’ve got to believe it’s no coincidence that Eleanor Friedberger’s second solo effort is named “Personal Record,” because that’s exactly what it sounds like. Considering that Friedberger made her name as a mischief-making wordsmith in the enigmatic brother-sister duo the Fiery Furnaces, there’s something especially refreshing and welcome about “Personal Record” achieving Friedberger’s personal record for being personal on a record.

While it could sometimes feel like the Fiery Furnaces was trying too hard to make sure everyone knew how offbeat its music was, with the results ranging wildly from brilliantly eccentric to willfully frustrating, going solo has seemingly freed Eleanor Friedberger up to show just what a naturally talented songwriter she is. Yeah, some of that impression might simply be the product of Friedberger making music under her own name, but whereas her 2011 debut “Last Summer” seemed as if she was still unlearning some of her earlier habits, “Personal Record” feels like she’s coming into her own, more at ease with who she is – and can be – as an artist.

The big take-away from “Personal Record” is how Friedberger seems more comfortable in her own skin as a songwriter now, even if that’s conveyed more in the smoother, natural sound of the music and less in the conventional sense of getting personal by baring your soul lyrically.

And everything feels complete and copacetic on the high-spirited romper “She’s a Mirror,” especially when it moves into a warm horn section that punctuates the song’s good vibes. More unexpectedly, Friedberger shows off some impulse control by channeling her creative energies into deftly crafted charmers, as with the bossa nova shaded “Echo or Encore” and the gentle chamber-pop piece “I Am the Past,” which blends in some woodwinds and light orchestration in a nice, graceful way.

Eleanor Friedberger ‘Personal Record’ Rating: W W W W