Eleanor Friedberger has accomplished plenty with brother Matthew in their well-regarded Indie Pop collective, The Fiery Furnaces. With Matthew occupied with his series of solo releases, Eleanor decided to test the waters with her own contribution, the patently wonderful and gently quirky Last Summer. As a debut, Last Summer distills and expands the sonic elements that Eleanor provides to the Fiery Furnaces, allowing her to inhabit and re-imagine the spaces generally filled by her brother’s contributions. As a result, “My Mistakes” jerks along like Neko Case writing in Art Pop tribute to Brian Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets; “Inn of the Seventh Ray” and “I Won’t Fall Apart on You Tonight” sound like a lower-registered Kate Bush being produced by the Mael brothers; “One-Month Marathon” is a Folk/Pop dirge envisioned by Kath Bloom, Donovan and Eno; and “Owl’s Head Park” glides along like one of Bush’s jazzy noir Pop excursions.
Not everything on Last Summer is a blazing success, but it shows conclusively that Eleanor Freidberger isn’t the least bit afraid to drift beyond the comfort zone of The Fiery Furnaces completely under her own loony, lovely power. Grade: B+