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Album Review

Furnaces singer tries solo on for size

(Michael Rubenstein)
By James Reed
Globe Staff / July 12, 2011

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Eleanor Friedberger is half of the Fiery Furnaces, an indie-rock duo she fronts with her brother, Matthew. Since 2000, they’ve made music that leaves you trying to catch your breath, dense songs often overrun with disparate ideas, and manic vocals brought to you by plenty of neuroses and way too much caffeine.

It’s even more jarring, then, to hear just how streamlined Friedberger’s terrific new solo album turned out. “Last Summer’’ doesn’t trumpet the demise of the Fiery Furnaces, nor does it announce the arrival of an important new artist. Instead, it’s casual and compelling, the work of a musician who simply wanted to record some songs on her own terms.

The Friedbergers are obviously big believers in the adage that a rolling stone gathers no moss. Like the Furnaces’ eclectic albums, “Last Summer’’ weaves in and out of different genres, terrified of staying in the same spot for too long.

Friedberger tries on styles as if assembling a new outfit from a vintage store. Psychedelic flourishes creep into “Inn of the Seventh Ray,’’ with Friedberger’s voice ricocheting into another galaxy. Thick bass lines give “Roosevelt Island’’ a touch of ’70s funk, and “One-Month Marathon’’ is its own animal: a funereal folk song.

The stunner, though, is the opening salvo. “My Mistakes’’ is eminently infectious and establishes the album’s deep sense of longing and nostalgia. “You said it wouldn’t be so bad / But it’s worse,’’ Friedberger later sings on “Glitter Gold Year,’’ repeating the line as if she’ll believe it the more she hears it. (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “My Mistakes’’

Eleanor Friedberger plays at the Lizard Lounge on Thursday.