What do the songs “Anything You Want” by Spoon and “Eleanor Put Your Boots On” by Franz Ferdinand have in common? They’re both written about one down-to-earth chick: Eleanor Friedberger (Fiery Furnaces). Growing up singing with her grandmother in a Greek Orthodox church, she has strayed from the spiritual, but not the soulful. Her new album is called New View, out now on Frenchkiss. MAGNET sent Friedberger some tracks from classics, newcomers and here-to-stays for her feedback.
Michael Hurley, “You Get Down By The Pool Hall Clickety Clack” from: First Songs
I was introduced to Michael Hurley by my friend Mike Fellows, who I met when I first moved to New York. I played a few shows with Mike, including a show opening up for Michael Hurley. He gave me this album, which includes a song called, “You Get Down By The Pool Hall Clickety Clack.” I liked the song because it’s this guy singing about, “Get away from my sister, my little sister,” and I imagine my brother singing it about me.
David Byrne, “Ex-Guru” from: Plum 7” Box Set
David Byrne’s version of “Ex-Guru” is a very “Furnacey” song. I grew up with him. The Talking Heads were a band that my brother and my mother, the three of us, could all listen to together. So, hearing David Byrne singing words that I had sung was truly bizarre. You know, it’s funny—I’ve met him since, a few times, and we’ve never talked about it, but it was really surreal.
Sleater-Kinney, “No Cities To Love” from: No Cities To Love
Sleater-Kinney is one band that I don’t own any of their records. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that. They’ve been a huge influence on me, but not necessarily musically, if that makes any sense. I relate to them more as, like, fellow women musicians. The first time we ever played in London, we opened up for them at the Astoria. That was like the greatest night ever.
The Fall, “Winter (Hostel Maxi)” from: Hex Enduction Hour
I listened to just a little bit of it last night, and I forgot “Colder Accordingly.” That was the song my brother and I covered. It was a little intimidating trying to sing like Mark E. Smith. He’s somebody that I revere, and also am repulsed by because he’s so erratic. I’ve seen him drunk and not be able to finish any songs, and I’ve seen him perform brilliantly.
Robert Wyatt, “Just As You Are” from: Comicopera
I know Robert Wyatt mostly from his work with Soft Machine, and I love their second album. It’s my favorite. And, of course, there’s Rock Bottom. Just to have that kind of longevity is, I think, really incredible. The melody and, really, everything he does has this kind of sadness to it. It’s just like this kind of sweetness in sadness that is pervasive in all his work, which I love.
Built To Spill, “Jokerman” from: Bob Dylan In The 80’s Volume One
“Jokerman” is a song I love, and I thought it was funny that it was included in some kind of ’80s Dylan comp. I thought it was fun; I just thought, like, whatever. I didn’t think it was radically different, and I love the original so much that I think it’s weird enough. I think maybe there’s a line in “Jokerman” that mentions “the fiery furnace,” but that’s not where we got our band name.
Yoko Ono, “Open Your Soul To Me” from: Onobox
I’m a huge Yoko Ono fan, so someone gave me the boxed set, and that was when I really dove into her work. I was asked to do a cover of basically anything for this Merge Records anniversary singles collection, and I chose that song. Nobody’s heard it because it’s not available on mp3 or anything, but I love our version. I wish more people could hear it.
Sebadoh, “Not Too Amused” from: Bakesale
I was always under the assumption you could either like Dinosaur Jr or like Sebadoh. You couldn’t like both, at least in the ’90s. I was a huge, huge Dinosaur Jr fan. It’s funny to fast forward many years later, and I end up in a band with Jason Loewenstein, who’s the bass player of Sebadoh.
Gerry Rafferty, “Baker Street” from: City To City
I recently got into a little bit of a Gerry Rafferty binge because one of my bandmates was singing “Right Down The Line” at karaoke night. “Baker Street” is one of those songs you can appreciate it, but there’s something that makes you want to throw up a little bit. It’s got this nauseating quality where you can’t keep it on. I guess it’s kind of like this visceral gut reaction to music.