Eleanor Friedberger, “Rebound”
Most listeners were introduced to Eleanor Friedberger in her role as one-half of The Fiery Furnaces, a group known for its borderline-bonkers pop maximalism. Yet there’s always been a method to the group’s kitchen-sink madness, and Friedberger’s solo albums have carefully highlighted her formal acumen and deep sense of craft. Rebound is a big step forward in her maturation—it’s an album that’s generous in its emotional outpouring, yet also subtle, refined, and intentionally muted in sonic palette.
The music was birthed on a trip to Greece, where Friedberger traveled to lick her wounds following the wearying 2016 US election. There she found a club called Rebound, and lost herself in the melodic thrall of Baltic synth bands—groups she likens to knock-offs of The Cure and Joy Division.
On Rebound, she captures that sound with the best kind of anonymity: Her songs are lushly orchestrated with synths and loops, tapping into some of the melancholic undercurrents and heart-on-sleeve romance of those bands she mentioned, while never quite recalling any one band in particular. Like The Decemberists on their recent I’ll Be Your Girl, Friedberger freely borrows from the emotional signifiers of the tuneful yet atmospheric bands of the late ’70s and early ’80s—bands that conveyed isolation and sadness with an appealing warmth and romance.
Working with fairly monochromatic arrangements, Friedberger has crafted an album of contoured melodies and steely precision—and in the hands of a lesser songwriter, a record like this might start to feel samey. Rather than limiting her, though, the taut arrangements help Friedberger focus: She opens the album with the patient hum of “My Jesus Phase,” but quickly builds to the explosive, high-stepping pop of “Everything.” “In Between Stars” bellows with a mighty cinematic roar, while “Make Me a Song” playfully swings and snaps. Her lyrics explore missed connections and failures to communicate, and in this context they play out with a kind of wistful nostalgia—a longing for what was, or what might have been. Both sonically and lyrically, it’s an album largely concerned with the past—a place Friedberger presents as both alluring and comfortable.