The Fiery Furnaces, ‘Widow City’ (Thrill Jockey)
The Fiery Furnaces have already made so many records — and packed each one so full of ideas — that you might worry they’d have nothing new left for Widow City, the Brooklyn-based group’s follow-up to last year’s Bitter Tea. But fear not: In “Automatic Husband,” one of 16 tracks here, singer Eleanor Friedberger makes her unexpected debut as a rapper — and she’s good! “The solar period, if you look, is like the bishop in the brook,” she announces over burbling bass and a swinging G-funk beat by drummer Bob D’Amico. As usual, it’s anyone’s guess what Friedberger’s on about. But her flow is so sexy and laid-back that it hardly matters.
Recorded with help from Tortoise’s John McEntire (who also worked on brother Matthew Friedberger’s 2006 solo set), Widow City is the band’s most raucously funky effort yet, full of twisty-turny jams with grooves lifted from Prince and guitar fuzz inspired by Led Zeppelin. “Ex-Guru” starts as live-band disco, then mushroom-clouds into a free-metal freak-out. Matt plays all the instruments besides the drums, including an old-school keyboard called the Chamberlin, which gives the music an appealing retro-futuristic vibe.
Like every Furnaces disc since their 2003 debut, Gallowsbird’s Bark, Widow City goes on for a while — maybe too long. But it’s quite a trip.