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Bitter Tea

4.1 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 18, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Bitter Tea is the latest installment from the Brooklyn based The Fiery Furnaces. The multi-instrumental brother and sister duo continue with their eclectic backdrop of experimental yet undeniably catchy melodies that set the stage perfectly for Eleanor's distinct vocals. Fat Possum. 2006.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. In My Little Thatched Hut
  2. I'm In No Mood
  3. Black-Hearted Boy
  4. Bitter Tea
  5. Teach Me Sweetheart
  6. Waiting To Know You
  7. The Vietnamese Telephone Ministry
  8. Oh Sweet Woods
  9. Borneo
  10. Police Sweater Blood Vow
  11. Nevers!
  12. Benton Harbor Blues
  13. Whistle Rhapsody?

Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 18, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Fat Possum Records
  • ASIN: B000EQ5Q86
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,442 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Amazon's The Fiery Furnaces Store

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I've been trying to be "ready" to review this album; don't know if that adjective could ever apply to anything having to do with the Fiery Furnaces, so here it is. _Bitter Tea_ is another revelation from the Friedberger siblings & co. They return to the form they "honed" on _Blueberry Boat_, for a large part, while retaining some of the strategies of _Rehearsing My Choir_, specifically Matthew's extensive use of the tack piano, which gives the songs more of a vaudevilian feel than ever, which is especially entertaining when the chord progression sounds like something from a death metal song (you know, pulling off from an F to an E power chord, such as bands like Soundgarden, Ministry, Metallica are so fond of doing; imagine that on a parlor piano). It says on their website that they once more will be only guitar, drums, and bass on the road because the tack piano is way too much to lug around. It will certainly be a treat to hear the punkier versions of the songs on _Bitter Tea_ live (if indeed they come any where near your geographical area; keep your fingers crossed), as the FF's are great at interpreting themselves.

And that's what it seems they are all about, to a great extent: self-interpretation. The Friedberger's embark on little odysseys of their subconsciouses (and therefore ours). Where does this lyric come from?: "My mother in law was standing by the stove/ hissing like a snake, hissing like a snake,/ hissing like a snake./ She gave orders to spill my blood;/ she gave orders/ to spill my blood, I thought" ("Teach Me Sweetheart"). Well, I'm not sure EXACTLY what Eleanor could be getting at here.
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Format: Audio CD
The Fiery Furnaces got a lot of flack for their last album, a concept album about their grandmother's life. So fans will be glad that in "Bitter Tea," the eccentric musical siblings go back to what they do best: Music-hall madness.

This album has a less organic feel than their previous work, suggesting that Matt and Eleanor Friedberger are seeing what they are capable of. But their music hasn't changed too much: bizarre dance melodies, oddball songs and psychedelic slashing all make this an intoxicatingly weird experience.

It starts off with one of their best songs: the "Little Thatched Hut," with its sinuous dance beat, joined in by piano and acoustic guitar. But it doesn't stay static -- I don't think the siblings could stay musically still that long. The song explodes suddenly into bursts of electronic swoosh, tribal beats, and what sounds like a keyboard being strangled.

This sound continues over several other, full of electronic fuzzling between energetic piano and mellow acoustic guitar. And they also harken back to the Furnaces' previous albums, with "Benton Harbor Blues" sounding like a charming B-Side from their second album, and "Teach Me Sweetheart" is a charmingly muddled (and kind of gruesome) love ballad. Lots of bloodthirsty relatives!

But the Fiery Furnaces try out some new sounds as well, as several songs are more electronic-based than their prior work. The title track is a real rock song, and it's pretty dense and psychedelic. Elaborate swooshes, explosions of synth and wacky little samples are all laid over a dancey melody that is as infectious as it is bizarre. Though it's less organic, it's recognizably a Furnaces song.

Even after five albums, the Fiery Furnaces still don't get the recognition they deserve.
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Format: Audio CD
Now that many of the leading 'indie' bands have decided to take four or five years in between albums (ie The Flaming Lips, Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, Radiohead, etc.), thankfully we have the Furnaces here to provide us with their sonic explorations every six months or so. After the challenging 'Rehearsing My Choir' many fans are probably expecting a return to accessibility from the Friedbergers (something along the flavor of EP or Gallowsbird's). Well, if you mean accessibility as a return to song structure as opposed to narrative format from the 'grandmother' album then... sure, okay. But Bitter Tea is FAR from accessible. This is one strange album that is overflowing with abstract themes and ideas. Think Blueberry Boat was weird? Check this one out and your definition of strange may be refined. This album will likely annoy and detract many of the people who thought 'Choir' was over the top. However, for those who enjoy some of the stranger things in life, this is right up your alley. Each one of the 13 tracks shines with individuality and a creativeness that has been lacking in the music industry for some time now. There are hooks galore in this album, albeit buried under the weirdness that may only surface after the tenth or so listen. Not recommended for the casual listener... But anybody who is as obsessed with Eleanor and Matthew as I am, this record is absolutely essential.
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Format: Audio CD
At this point, it basically goes without saying that the Fiery Furnaces are not for everyone. Last year they felt obligated to push their reputation from "yet another recent eccentric indie band" to "the quintessential recent eccentric indie band" with Rehearsing My Choir, an instant slam dunk into the vault of conceptually fascinating records that are referenced more than they're actually played - right alongside the Flaming Lips' Zaireeka, Dylan's Self Portrait and, dare I recall it, Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Even when irritating or unbearable to listen to, these were the sorts of albums over which hardcore music buffs and critics (especially the late, great Lester Bangs) absolutely loved to chit-chat, argue and wage war. The Friedberger siblings' newest creation, Bitter Tea, is neither as alienating as Rehearsing My Choir nor as delectably poppy as their gem-stuffed EP from earlier that same year. It also isn't as deliberate or definitive as their magnum opus, Blueberry Boat (and we really should be glad for that - reproducing that monster would border on self-parody). Instead, it's the first record of theirs that exists comfortably in the context of their prolificacy: jammed with ideas and tricks, easily recognizable in tonality and mood, arguably genius without being undeniably solid.

The roles of each of the siblings have grown more dynamic over the past four years, and while this record certainly coalesces better than the free-for-all that was their last album (winding, impenetrable stories and dialogue from Eleanor and her grandmother backed by haphazard baroque keyboards and a mishmash of studio tinkery from Matthew), the delicate tension between the two remains.
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Topic From this Discussion
2 versions?
This one is an import with a bonus track. That and about $11.
Apr 24, 2006 by Joshua Messer |  See all 2 posts
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