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Music Review: The Fiery Furnaces – Remember

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One band that continues to stir my interest is The Fiery Furnaces. Primarily a duo, this Brooklyn-based band is comprised of the brother-sister combo of Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger. Matthew handles the songwriting and instruments when the band records in the studio, while Eleanor does the majority of the vocals. When The Fiery Furnaces tour, the duo adds a series of session players.

Pigeonholing the sound of The Fiery Furnaces is easier said than done and deciphering just what is going on at one of their live shows is a problem that most wouldn’t subject themselves to. Instead, it’s better to simply sit back and leave the analysis and classification to those interested in that sort of thing. For the brave ones, an intricacy that the Friedberger duo themselves don’t understand waits. For the rest of us, the live experience of The Fiery Furnaces is a permutation of disorder, sound, that blasted organ, and unexpected flashes of funkiness and charmingly dark melodic arrangements.

With Remember, a two-disc live compilation album, The Fiery Furnaces aim to release their experience as a live band to a broader audience. It should be noted that the record is a collection of various live performances and not simply one live show. The pieces of music on Remember were taken from multiple shows in support of their first six studio albums.

For those interested in getting to know The Fiery Furnaces with this live compilation, the process can get a bit fiddly. As the band is known for rearranging and even rewriting their songs from one show to the next and one tour to the next, finding a sense of consistency with Remember and the studio recordings is going to be elusive. Having said that, there is something unreservedly spectacular about the reworking of the music found here and the band’s ingenuity leaps from the speakers during each track.

Spanning four live lineups of the band, Remember takes a slew of recordings and splices them together to create a picture perfect experience of music. As such, the record serves as a whirlwind tour of the band’s complete live history and is a must for any fan.

One of the most prominent things about this two-disc recording is how tight the sound is. There are sparkling splashes of cymbal and the clattering of faultless percussion. There is the old-time gospel feel of a rinky-dink organ as it bounces and farts about behind Eleanor’s vocals. There’s the playful sophistication of the reworked arrangements. And then there are Eleanor’s vocals! She works the crowd as a master storyteller, her words afire with a blend of obligation and beautiful insanity.

The 51 tracks on Remember span the live experience of The Fiery Furnaces flawlessly. More than two hours of music roll by like seconds, as the songs play between speaker-crashing rock and gauzy, graceful ballads. There are medleys of songs that have somehow collided together to form new songs and there are pieces of old songs that purely blow apart into other songs.

The live experience of The Fiery Furnaces is less about the individual songs and more about the overarching understanding of music provided by one of the most gripping and exceptional live acts playing in rock music today. With Remember, listeners are given a praiseworthy peek into what makes this band a live favourite among old and new fans.

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About Jordan Richardson