New View sticks to a pretty standard issue guitars/bass/drums/keys indie pop setup, with enough small twists to prevent over-familiarity from setting in.
For an artist who rose to indie rock prominence with the Fiery Furnaces in part due to pushing boundaries through pseudo-prog song structure and instrumentation, Eleanor Friedberger’s solo albums have been pretty straightforward. Her post-Furnaces efforts, 2011’s Last Summer, 2013’s Personal Record and now her latest, New View, are defined by a preponderance of pleasant, mid-tempo 3-minute pop songs more than anything else. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. Friedberger may not be as eager to experiment without her brother, Matthew, behind her, but she certainly hasn’t lost her skill for melody and popcraft. New View may not surprise much, but its melodic soundness is almost unassailable.
New View certainly isn’t a bubblegum record, however. Yes, there is one song that hilariously sounds like the Monkees’ “Cathy With The Curly Hair,” and it’s great. But outside that one track, the album has an autumnal, subtly rueful undercurrent, with unexpected minor chords and plenty of lyrics about broken hearts and tears (such as on the playful single “Sweetest Girl”). But Friedberger still aims for and hits our pleasure centers with her vocal melodies, and the congenially jangling guitars of her backing band, Icewater, keep the record a brisk, buoyant listen. Only once does she strip away the artifice to deliver a stark, downcast acoustic ballad, “Never Is A Long Time,” which, as is evident from the title, is intended as a musical and lyrical successor to Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.” Friedberger’s tune cuts the hope for a romantic reunion that drives Dylan’s out entirely: “We are less than nothing/Nothing is a perfect rhyme/I’ll never have your loving/And never is a long time.” It’s a worthy sequel, if a pessimistic one, but that’s balanced out by the immediately preceding “Because I Asked You,” a witty, endearing love song about the oftentimes illogical things we do for our significant others (“treat me like a tennis pro”, apparently?) just because. It’s also got the album’s most incessantly hummable melody.
The rest of New View sticks to a pretty standard issue guitars/bass/drums/keys indie pop setup, with enough small twists to prevent over-familiarity from setting in, like the almost baroque-sounding guitar motif that breaks up the simple, repetitive verses of “Sweetest Girl.” Throughout the album, hints of a modern-day synth pop influence, like the sugary organ tone on “Your Word,” are melded with a rustic Americana undertaste, likely the result of the fact that the album was recorded in a barn in upstate New York. Fortunately, Friedberger avoids pandering by only introducing the down home feel in subtle ways, like the delightfully scraggly, rootsy Robbie Robertson/Nashville Skyline-era Dylan lead guitar on “Open Season” and “A Long Walk,” while still leaving room for elements like the extended proggy guitar solo on “Two Versions of Tomorrow.” In fact, only “Never Is A Long Time” and “A Long Walk” are overtly folksy or countryish, the latter with its honky-tonk piano and aforementioned guitar work eventually ceding to a terrific, chipper singalong coda. It’s a suitable ending to an album that, whenever it threatens to become downright predictable, never fails to come through with something to whistle along to.