As the Chicago duo The Fiery Furnaces, Matthew Friedberger and sister Eleanor have produced eight albums full of adventurous art-pop experimentation in a relatively short span of time. However, Matthew has also apparently set plenty aside for himself, as he’s now planning on releasing eight new solo albums—which, in addition to a forthcoming new Furnaces record and Eleanor’s own solo effort, means you could see 10 new Fiery Furnaces-related albums by this time next year.
The vinyl-only solo series—titled, simply, Solos—will be available in limited-edition copies in stores, but “serious fans” are urged to sign up for the subscription series through Thrill Jockey, which will enable them to receive two subscriber-only bonus LPs, as well as an “an old-style ‘Tip On’ LP box with a hand-mounted photo.” And what can you expect from them musically? Allow the most pretentious—or tongue-in-cheek pretentious—press release ever written to explain, beginning with the introduction, “’Matt’ is Rock-n-Roll musician and songwriter Matthew Friedberger, a Chicagoan. Mr. Friedberger considers R-n-R an anti-vocational sphere of endeavor, as is obvious from its epithet, so spelled, Q.E.D. Therefore a C.V. is drastically inappropriate.” It actually continues in this vein:
His 6+2 record set, Solos, in which he plays only a single given instrument per album (though not necessarily the same actual individual example of the single given instrument), is designed to illustrate the following Cretan-Lacedaemonian principle. Every group of instruments against every other group of instruments; every instrument against every other instrument; and especially, every instrument against itself, all alone. See Laws, Book 1, 626 d. This idea jibes quite well with certain notions that have often been thought constitutively American, no doubt unfortunately. Friedberger thinks it therefore illuminating to apply this principle to such a pre-eminently American music as the aforementioned R-n-R. Despite the fact that this application is no doubt already ongoing.
Quite. As such, the first release in the series, Napoleonette, will feature only the piano, so titled “because the piano is a very imperious, imperial instrument, I guess.” (You can download the first single, “Shirley,” at the Thrill Jockey website.) Albums featuring Friedberger soloing on guitar, organ, double bass, drums, and harp (the same one owned and played by the Friedbergers’ late grandmother, Olga Sarantos, of 2005’s Rehearsing My Choir) will then follow.
Meanwhile, Friedberger is also once again creating the score for the Guggenheim’s upcoming Art Awards, presented by Rob Pruitt, while also supposedly drafting a cultural manifesto, which he explains here using a Curb Your Enthusiasm reference to (slightly) undercut the smug:
Mr. Friedberger is at work on a book called The Progressive Use of Popular Culture 1: Music. In this work, about the same length as Jason Alexander's non-existent Acting Without Acting, he attempts to advance—or exaggerate—the egalitarian potential of the irreducibly esoteric nature of the popular arts. He considers Rock-n-Roll, or Rock 'n Roll, or Rock, or This Thing, to be the Queen, or King, or Tyrant of Indeterminate Gender, of the Popular Arts. The word Tyrant in the last sentence is meant to include a sense of necessary illegitimacy.
As indeed it should, for one should never speak of rock-n-roll, or rock ’n’ roll, without paying ironic curtsy to its vulgar nature. Anyway, if this is all too much ornate whimsy for you, the next Fiery Furnaces album will supposedly be recorded this December—“a loud, aggressive rock record,” according to Friedberger, that was “arranged as a concerto for Drum Kit and String Orchestra,” and which may contain song titles like “I Met The Queen Of The Night In The Daytime", "I Was So Confused,” “The Diabolical Principle,” “Two Different Dads," “The City Of The Sun,” and "As Insufficient As An Eskimo's Kimono,” which sounds dandy, just dandy.