The Fiery Furnaces, 'I'm Going Away' (Thrill Jockey)

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by Mikael Wood

How does a year without a new Fiery Furnaces album feel? If Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger get their way, we'll never know. Since debuting in 2003 with Gallowsbird's Bark, this Brooklyn brother-sister duo has kept insanely busy, pumping out tunes like Lily Allen Tweets. Although there's no doubting that the Furnaces' hustle is part of their charm, some of their recent output has reflected that creative frenzy too closely. Only a superfan (or a Friedberger) could make it through last year's double-disc Remember without coming up for air.

I'm Going Away, the band's eighth album, requires no such refreshment. It's their most instantly accessible effort after Bark, with a dozen catchy tunes packed inside 47 easy, breezy minutes. Anchored by Matthew's freewheeling piano, the music flows with the laid-back élan of late-period Pavement, and though Eleanor still crams more words into a line than actually fit, the edges of her cool-chick vocals sound softened here, more pro musician than indie overachiever.

The less-hectic arrangements allow you to admire the beauty of the occasional musical oddity, such as the dash of jazz-guitar dissonance in "Cut the Cake" or the lounge-funk interlude near the end of "Staring At the Steeple." It's probably premature to assume the Furnaces are finished with overkill. But they can shine without it.

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