The press release for I'm Going Away's first single says, "Fans and critics alike have long been waiting for siblings Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger to make their 'simple' record..." Only half true: after eight prog-pop albums of varying difficulty, fans and critics have been waiting for them to create something as exciting as their second LP, Blueberry Boat, no matter how simple or difficult it sounds. Their albums since then — from the confusing oral history of Rehearsing My Choir, to the 70s genre tripping of Widow City — have separated fans and critics more than united them. But the release is right — I'm Going Away is the band's simplest record, though it may not be the "return" to form we've been waiting for.
The Friedbergers split duties the usual ways here: Matthew arranges and plays most of the instruments, Eleanor provides most of the vocals and lyrics. The album is their most consistent yet, but there's a tangible shift in the lyrics after the first three songs. The album-opener and title track is a traditional lyric over a burpy bass and screwed-up Johnny Cash beat. Eleanor's stony talk-speak softens on "Drive to Dallas," where she shares some of her least oblique lyrics: "I'm not going to cut my hair, or run around the block/I'm not going to drive to Dallas with blurry eyes ever again." Album single "The End is Near" is as simple as the press release promised: an AM radio dirge packed with break-up chestnuts like, "The worst times weren't so bad, compared to this."
After that opening trio, I'm Going Away recovers from the heartache, charging like a scorned lover determined to have fun, while shaking bad memories out of its hair. The best of these songs rest on some of the cleanest melodies Fiery Furnaces have ever used. "Lost at Sea," flows from Matthew's honky-tonk vamping, while "Even in the Rain" has Eleanor's vocals following a similarly melodic piano line on the chorus, reinforcing the Music From Big Pink airiness that permeates the record's middle section. It's a familiar vibe, comforting almost, and it marks the Furnaces' return not to Blueberry Boat, but to their simpler first record. Maybe it means something exciting's around the corner. Jessica Suarez