The Fiery Furnaces' fourth US release, Rehearsing My Choir is based, with liberal heaps of poetic license, around the recollections of Matt and Eleanor Friedberger's grandmother, 83-year-old Olga Sarantos. As Eleanor and Mrs. Sarantos trade off on vocals, signaling quick shifts in time and perspective, the music barrels along at their heels, the Furnaces changing up instruments and arrangements to match the action. As much musical theater as concept album, the story arc of Rehearsing My Choir largely takes place in mid-20th century Chicago. The lyrics matter-of-factly recount our heroine's adventures from a half-century ago, and so reflect how the average person's aspirations and experiences were different enough then to seem almost alien now. But it's no period piece, no nostalgia or attempts at "authenticity" in evidence, and Mrs. Saranatos' dry, unsparing treatment on tracks like "Candymaker's Knife in My Handbag" is the furthest thing from sentimental. Rough Trade. 2005.
1) The Garfield El
2) The Wayward Granddaughter
3) A Candymakers Knife in My Bag
4) We Wrote Letters Everyday
5) Forty-Eight Twenty-Three Twenty-Second Street
6) Guns Under the Counter
7) Seven Silver Curses
8) Though Let's Be Fair
9) Slavin Away
10) Rehearsing My Choir
11) Does It Remind You of When?