Fiery Furnaces

EP
(Rough Trade)

With their debut, Gallowsbird's Bark, New York's Fiery Furnaces made the best two-person indie-blues CD in 2003 that didn't feature someone surnamed White. For a follow-up 10 months later, they released Blueberry Boat, a complicated, intermittently brilliant departure from indie blues that didn't feature someone surnamed Zappa but sounded like it did. Because it's only 10 tracks long and eases up on the obscure allusions and inside jokes, the new EP could be considered a retrenchment; because it consists of previously released U.K. singles and studio outtakes, it literally is. This is not a bad thing. Front woman Eleanor Friedberger sounds best when she's just barely on the right side of making sense, as in "Evergreen," a midtempo shuffle about trees and pinecones; her brother Matthew's got a workable Everydude voice he flexes in "Sing for Me," a bit of tender big-top father-daughter pop. Yet the Furnaces don't stray from the difficult here, either: "Single Again" Trojan-horses a startling account of domestic abuse inside bloopy electro-rock, and the duo recasts the great Gallowsbird's highlight "Tropical-Iceland" as a kaleidoscopic swirl of creepy-funny circus music.

 
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