Brother-sister act Fiery Furnaces has spent the past ten years earning a reputation as one of the most prolific and confounding acts in indie rock. Their songs, written mostly by Matthew Friedberger, pair classic-rock instrumentation with deliberately irritating sounds — weird synths, voiceovers from Friedberger’s grandmother, basically anything. The music changes directions constantly, reluctant to provide anything like a groove or a hook. In the middle of all this is the voice of Matthew’s sister, Eleanor Friedberger, who has a conversational, girl-next-door way of singing in even the most nonsensical arrangements.
So when Fiery Furnaces took a break last year and the siblings produced solo work, few were surprised when Matthew took the opportunity to put out six vinyl-only full-length records of experimental music while Eleanor released something closer to a 1970s-style singer-songwriter record. That’s speaking relatively, of course. You could easily sing along with the lovely piano-driven chorus to “I Won’t Fall Apart on You Tonight,” but just try that with the psychedelic morass that is “Inn of the Seventh Ray.”
And then there are the in-between songs such as “Owl’s Head Park,” which pairs synthpop with lyrics such as, “I heard they got used bicycle parts out on Coney Island.” Not even Cole Porter could have fit those words to a pretty melody, but Eleanor’s cooing voice cushions the jagged syllables. She sounds like she’s just talking to you but can’t help but make everything she says sound like a song.
Or maybe not. The Friedbergers are not for everyone. But Eleanor almost makes it seem like they could be.
Dominant Legs also performs.
ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER: The Casbah, Thursday, February 2, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12.