Friedberger endows Rebound with self-awareness and emotional strength.
The first sound we hear on Rebound, Eleanor Friedberger’s fourth solo studio album, is of the Illinois-born singer-songwriter taking a deep breath. A sound of trepidation, her breath conveys Friedberger’s vulnerability, but any insecurity about the subsequent tracks is unwarranted as the introspective focus of Rebound evokes empowerment gained through self-reliance.
Friedberger was inspired by a nightclub in Athens called Rebound, a place “where time stands still” as she sings in “It’s Hard.” She had decamped to Greece to break free and recover from the acerbic rhetoric plaguing the United States. In her search for renewal, Rebound demarcates her emotive and creative bounce-back scripted to music. This is specifically noted on “In Between Stars,” in which Friedberger personifies the Greek coastline to signify her own emotional ebbing as she sings, “In between moons/ I was the sea, I was the sea.”
The deep lyrical introspection connects Rebound to Friedberger’s larger body of work, however the music signifies a departure. Capturing the sounds of the nightclub, Friedberger relies on electro-pop to fuel the album. Yet her use of the genre is not archetypal; rather she subverts the genre’s conventions. “Everything,” for example, is a pop-driven track that isn’t composed with the standard major chords and instrumental resolutions. Instead, the earworm track is dominated by guitar chords that contrast sonically with Friedberger’s singing and harmonizing. Friedberger rebuffs the pop tendency to provide aural resolution. Consequently, “Everything” balances sonic discomfort while maintaining a danceable energy.
“Make Me a Song” constructs a mesmeric interplay between the music and the lyrics. The song begins with a continuous instrumental reverb that grows more understated as the track’s main music and vocals are introduced. Yet Friedberger redraws attention to the reverberating texture when she sings “Make me a sound/Vibrate, resonate/It takes the ear to hear the waves.” That’s Friedberger’s reminder to focus on the multiple layers of her music.
On “Showy Early Spring,” Friedberger illustrates the confidence enabling her to venture into a distinct personal and creative space, singing “Take a look around and you see that you’ve already found what you came for/ It’s here for the taking/ It’s mine.” This unbridled sense of self-confidence ultimately established the foundation for Rebound. Likewise, “Make Me a Song” finds solace in imperfection with the suggestion that “it’s not about being pretty/ It ain’t about being perfect.”
Friedberger’s intellect shines through with her use of lyrical references. She opens the album with the track “My Jesus Phase,” which utilizes Iris Murdoch’s novel The Nice and the Good as a subtext. As much as Murdoch’s book critiques reconciliation, Friedberger’s track sets a similar tone for the album. The novel features uncanny elements that Friedberger musically interprets with resonating guitar echoing undulating synthesizers and unnerving electronic effects.
Rebound also meditates on language. Friedberger’s use of choppy lyrics offers a mirror of the contemporary tendency to use truncated communication. Instead of creating an interpersonal connection, hurried and short communication becomes a distraction. This is recapitulated in “Rule of Action” when she sings “It’s my own distraction/ My failure of attention.” Communication instead focuses on minutia. “Are We Good?” uses the wordplay of “I played croquet, it was croquet,” instead of providing a thoughtful and profound response to the question in the song’s title. With the irreverent “yak yak yak” in “The Letter,” Friedberger condemns short-form communication’s emphasis on superficiality, and here she purposely demonstrates our culture’s tendency to indulge in mundane and trivial narratives.
Friedberger’s meditations endow Rebound with self-awareness and emotional strength. Rebound is the tangible result of how a journey to understand one’s own identity through an inward focus culminates in a masterfully creative project that resonates with a voracious fan base.