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Baker's Dozen

Personal Records: Eleanor Friedberger's Favourite Albums
Gary Kaill , January 27th, 2016 10:43

With her third solo record, New View, released last week and a UK tour imminent, the singer-songwriter and one half of The Fiery Furnaces talks Gary Kaill through the 13 records she's played most from start to finish

Photograph courtesy of Joe DeNardo

"The album that I made, it's purely my taste, you know? It's selfish and greedy, in a way, but I made it to satisfy that. It's what I like." Eleanor Friedberger is talking to tQ from Austin, Texas. With her third solo album, New View, she's readying herself for a renewed bout of touring and promotion. Recorded with Icewater – an established act in their own right but doubling now as Friedberger's backing band – New View is a deeper and more fully realised development of the sound she's been crafting since The Fiery Furnaces (the band she fronted with her brother Matthew) went on hiatus in 2011. It sounds live: free and uncluttered. Authentic and soulful, it's her loveliest, smartest work to date.

"The band who play on this record are guys I met two years ago and they toured with me to support the last record," Friedberger explains. "So I had the songs written and we all decided to escape New York for a little while. We rented a rehearsal space in LA for a couple of months and treated it like a job, really. We'd work Monday to Friday. I'd send a demo of a song upfront or just sit in a room with them and play it on guitar and we'd work out the arrangements. And at the end of that stint, we played a couple of shows and then we went back to upstate New York to record. So, yeah, it sounds like that for a reason."

New View is as lyrically and melodically accomplished as Friedberger's earlier work but it breathes easy with a warm and hazy vibe that recalls prime Laurel Canyon folk-rock. But this is no nostalgia trip. Friedberger and her band reference the past but they sound vital and alive. "I'm glad that that comes through. That's good to hear. We recorded the basic tracks live, on the second floor of this barn. I would sit there like a musical director with a microphone and I'd do a scratch vocal take while the four guys played the song, essentially. And when we were happy, after playing the songs several times, we'd move on. I know that's how many bands work but for me it was a new approach. Even the records I made with my brother, they were very much studio creations. With much of that stuff, we'd then have to work out how to play them live. But this was the opposite of that."

"During downtime between albums I did a couple of different jobs that really affected the songwriting," she continues. "I played on this late night NBC show hosted by Seth Myers. I did that a bunch of times. We'd meet in the morning and write these seven or eight short pieces of music that we would play on TV that night. That taught me to not be too precious and to write quickly. And then I worked on this thing for the Andy Warhol Museum where there were five musicians and we were each assigned three films to score. We're actually doing that show at the Barbican in London in May. Some really good people were involved: Tom Verlaine, Bradford Cox, Dean Wareham and Martin Rev from Suicide. It was a really good learning experience for me and really helped me get going on the rest of the songs for this album."

When it came to her Baker's Dozen choices, Friedberger originally sent through a list of 14 albums. ("Oh, did I? Oh, well just get rid of one. You choose. I can't really put them in any order!") Her enthusiasm is beyond infectious. Every album on her list seems to occupy a significant slot in her personal history and she's spent some considerable time with them all. "I feel like my list is a little too obvious in some ways but I was just trying to be honest," she says. Of contemporary artists who might make the cut in the future, Friedberger highlights two without pause. "There's a lot of old stuff on there but there are some current voices who I really love. You know, as I was making this list I was asking myself why don't I have more women, but I loved the last Cate Le Bon album. Love her voice. Angel Olsen, too. Those two, I'd say, are my current favourites."

New View is out now on Frenchkiss Records. Eleanor Friedberger begins a tour on February 3 at the Moth Club in London; for full details and tickets, head here. Click on her image below to begin scrolling through Eleanor's choices, which run in no particular order

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