Music

Eleanor Friedberger's "Other Boys" and the Quietly Devastating Love Song

The Fiery Furnaces vocalist saves the best for second-to-last on her latest solo LP.

The best love songs belie their sentimental affection with thinly veiled layers of desperation or obsession. Take Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man”, where the songwriter betrays his creepy devotion with promises like “I’ll examine every inch of you,” or Prince’s “If I Was Ur Girlfriend”, in which the Purple One channels his lovesick obsession into envy of the intimacy his girlfriend shares with her female friends.

The latest entry in this tradition is "Other Boys", the fantastic climax of Eleanor Friedberger's aptly titled Personal Record. (The Fiery Furnaces vocalist these days has a knack for moving penultimate tracks -- 2011's Last Summer had "Owl's Head Park", the singer's richly woven tribute to the spacious Brooklyn park.) "Other Boys" may well be the world's (or at least this decade's) most quietly heartbreaking ode to polyamory, as Friedberger tackles a laundry list of "other girls" her partner is seeing -- "the blond who's in a band with her twin," "the spider you kissed in her stairwell" -- over a sly waltz, her voice growing increasingly desperate during the song's chorus refrain: "There are other boys, too / But don't let it worry you."

Pitchfork's Lindsay Zoladz describes the song as being about "the kind of casual, open relationship that, secretly, only one of the parties wants to be casual and open," since "someone who didn’t care about the competition wouldn’t make a list of her guy’s side chicks as poetic and mythologized as the Iliad’s Catalogue of Ships." It's a credit to Friedberger's songwriting that she's able to reveal the song's nail-biting insecurities without dropping the facade -- just when she starts to lose her cool altogether, letting the album's unflinchingly self-directed themes erupt in drama, she seems unable to carry on, fading out on a tumultuous organ solo.

Alas, the longest song yet of Friedberger's solo career is still too short -- but an inspiring hint at where Friedberger could be headed next if she continues mining the newly confessional songcraft that brought her away from Fiery Furnaces in the first place.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.

Film

A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.

Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

'The Avengers: Endgame' Faces the Other Side of Loss

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our pandemic grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.