For the most part, we can all agree that old rock n’ roll is generally awesome. But you know those hit records from the fifties and sixties that just… aren’t so amazing? The ones that good kids and their parents were probably into? Pat Boone, Dinah Shore and several other artists kept spitting out weird, white-bread covers of soul songs. They did an excellent job of keeping half of a generation half-asleep, while the rest of it let loose for the first time.
If you mix up the essence of that retro milquetoast with a little bit of third-stage/first-set Lilith Fair, and you’ve got the sound of Eleanor Friedberger’s latest album, Personal Record. As bland as it is forgettable, Personal Record completely lacks personality. Song after song stack up in a wash of clumsy guitar and snooze-worthy vocals. The supposedly “curious images and jagged lyrics,” are buried under an avalanche of… what?… sorry… I fell asleep.
But seriously, folks. This album exists, so there must be something to say on its behalf. Lead single “She’s a Mirror,” is borderline interesting– perhaps because of the presence of a drum beat. “Stare at the Sun,” shares the benefit of having a drum, but collapses under the weight of Friedberger’s quavering voice and a dearth of true melody. And if you’re looking for the exact same song with different lyrics, feel free to check out “When I Knew.” Though NPR, the LA Times and several indie sources herald Ms. Friedberger’s solo effort as a work of quirky brilliance, perhaps it is her good reputation giving her a leg up. As one half of the Fiery Furnaces, she’s made that trembling voice work well for her in the past. Unfortunately, without the second Friedberger around, it seems the fire has been snuffed out– in favor of something dreadfully vanilla.