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Winter Women & Holy Ghost Language School

6 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 8, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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 record—two 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

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Seventh Loop Highway
  2. Holy Ghost Language School
  3. Cross and the Switchblade
  4. I Started Using Alcohol at the Age of Eleven
  5. Do You Like Blondes?
  6. Azusa St.
  7. Topeka and San Antonio
  8. A Mystical Preparation To Lewdness
  9. Ship Scrap Beach Business
  10. First Day of School
  11. Things Were Going So Well
  12. All in Vain of the Opposite
  13. I Love You Cedric
  14. Servant in Distress
  15. Hialeah
  16. Wisconsin River Blues

Disc: 2

  1. Under the Hood at the Paradise Garage
  2. Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company Resignation Letter
  3. Up the River
  4. Ruth vs Rachel
  5. Her Chinese Typewriter
  6. Big Bill Crib and His Ladies of the Desert
  7. Don't You Remember?
  8. Bet You Don't!!!
  9. P.S. 213 Mini-School
  10. Theme from Never Going Home Again
  11. Motorman
  12. Quick as Cupid
  13. Bonus Track 1

Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 8, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: 859 Recordings
  • ASIN: B000G8OZ48
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #828,355 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By SirTheory on August 14, 2006
Format: Audio CD
It seems that after 5 Fiery Furnace albums the critics are tiring of Matthew Friedberger. The general agreement seems to be that of this two disc set "Winter Woman" has some decent songs but is too long and "Holy Ghost Language School" is just absolutely terrible. Granted, these are the same critics who say the FFs peaked with "Blueberry Boat" and thought "Rehearsing My Choir" was the worst cd last year.

I was one of the weird people who loved "Rehearsing My Choir." Everything about it was perfect, from the Shatner-aspiring grandmother, to the repeating musical motifs... everything. So naturally I definitely find "Holy Ghost Language School" to be them more interesting of the two albums Friedberger has presented us. "HGLS" is definitely the more expirimental of the two albums, complete with vague lyrical storyline (or focus) and Friedberger spoken word. Rather than just being a subpar "Rehearsing My Choir" it is similar only for comparrison's sake. It has it's own identity and has it's own unique features, both musically and compositionally.

"Winter Woman" on the other hand is billed as Friedberger's pop album. The fact that people actually took him seriously and expected Michael Jackson or something is really funny. Critics and consumers should be aware by now that what the Friedbergers consider "pop" and what the rest of the world considers "pop" are two vastly different things. Thus it is no surprise when "Winter Woman" spins in familiar Fiery Furnace territory. The songs are nice, though don't particularly tread new ground.

So five stars for "Holy Ghost..." and three for "Winter Woman" averages into a nice four stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Johnny Utah on August 23, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Bought it, flipped it on once... and found it to be blurry and a bit impenetrable. Winter Women is the "pop" album? Sounds pretty "out there" to me! The goods news, though, is that - like the Fiery Furnaces themselves - it just takes some time to take shape, but once it does it'll bring a smile to your face.

Well, I don't think Matt is going to win over any new fans with this, and people who are new to the Fiery Furnaces would do well to start with something else (see: "EP" or "Gallowsbird's Bark")... so Ill review this from the standpoint of someone who already appreciates them.

The production value on Winter Women is weird... sort of muffled, and the vocals just seem too low in the mix. But it starts to make sense after a while. To me this is headphones music, plain and simple. It's the perfect headphones music, because there is so much to discover, and yet it doesn't require your full undivided attention, so you can listen to it while you work and discover it at your own pace. There definitely are some wonderfully weird "pop" moments mixed into Winter Women. It'll hit you in the gut every so often. And although it's over an hour in length, it floats by smoothly and doesn't overstay its welcome (whereas I think that "Blueberry Boat" kind of does).

Then there is "Holy Ghost Language" school. So yeah, I guess it's a bit more experimental, but it also has a more crisp production and some genuinely rocking moments, so it's a good contrast. Of the two albums, this one is also more of a departure from standard Fiery Furnaces fare, in a good way. Whereas you'll recognize some of the tricks on "Winter Women", this one seems more fresh and new, and it's great to see how many tricks this dude still has up his sleave.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 21, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Matthew Friedberger can be called many things -- eccentric, bizarre, brilliant, and overflowing with musical ideas. Some even (inexplicably) call him pretentious, probably because his music is so weird and so prolific.

But he shines in his "Winter Women/Holy Ghost Language," the first album made without his sister Eleanor. The two-disc set could have used a bit of pruning, but Friedberger is in his element with strange lyrics and tripped out, blipped out piano music that sounds like the mad cousin of the Fiery Furnaces. Which, in a way, it is.

"Winter Women" is a more "typical" rock album, with a sort of country-folk flavour. It opens with the thunderous synth, cymbals and ripply keyboard of "Under The Hood At Paradise Garage," which rattles into a solid little pop tune that sounds like it's having a psychedelic line dance. Well, what could you expect? Normality?

He follows it up with a solid round of indie-rock songs: guitar pop with violins and synth, accordion rock, cheery little pop tunes, swoopy keyboard melodies, percussion pop with rippling keyboard and flute, music-hall piano with gongs, and gothic keyboard tunes that blossom out into catchy synthpop.

"Normal" Friedberger is enough to make most people dizzy. But he lets loose in "Holy Ghost Language": it opens with a sizzling guitar riff, which slowly descends into a chaos of dancy keyboard and thunderous piano. The lyrics get even stranger: "And he thumbed home the good news/blessing/grace/wisdom from on high/notion, And off it went happily into the ether.
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