Matthew Friedberger is one half of the brother and sister duo The Fiery Furnaces. This is Matt's first solo release and the first release from the newly formed label 859 Recordings. The first disc, Winter Women, clocking in at one hour, showcases his strength as a songwriter and features some of the most accessible and infectious pop songs he's ever written. Winter Women is a summer record, full of catchy and un-ironic pop songs. The second disc, Holy Ghost Language School, is more experimental a 46 minute sonic novel with the requisite backwards guitars and strange samples which makes Matt's work so original. Matt wrote and arranged all the music, played all the instruments (except for some drumming from John McEntire from Tortoise) and is the only vocalist throughout. The record was co-produced by Bill Skibbe at Key Club Recording at Benton Harbor, Michigan in March of this year.
The brother dude from shape-shifting, postmodern indie blues-rock brother and sister (for real) act the Fiery Furnaces has made a solo recordtwo solo records in fact, separate discs inside one clam shell. The first showcases his poppy side while the other display's the guy's noisier tendencies. It's a casual reminder of the guy's talent. Prior to starting the Furnaces he'd fronted other acts, including Corndolly, Liquorette, the Mezzanines and Grand Vizars. There's a gently, gnome-ish, Mellotron-plus-groove-box vibe throughout the pop disc, Winter Women, that's warm and inviting throughout. The "noise" record is awash in loud MIDI crashes and plonky keyboards; songs alternate between strangely cute instrumentals and plodding numbers with spoken word, as if Lee Ranaldo gatecrashed Stephen Merrit ca. 1995. The whole thing clocks in a bit long and would make a far better single disc, but if one is to begin to piddle about editorial decisions that's kind of beside the point. Fans will delight in the thing, while non-fans will most likely scratch their heads and walk away. --Mike McGonigal