Your wistful summer song: Eleanor Friedberger’s ‘Scenes from Bensonhurst’
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There’s the summer song that we’re all familiar with: the blow-up pop hit that demands that we strip to our bikinis and mankinis, frolic on the beach, and bounce from party to party all night long, possibly tanked on whatever lab-invented elixir confuses the boundaries between Kool-Aid and turpentine. Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Britney Spears, LMFAO are all skilled practitioners at this variety of the summer song.
But there’s another type of song, often overlooked though it’s just as true to the season. It’s the wistful summer song, the song that knows that as soon as the fiery ball of the sun emerges, it’s already fading. It’s the jam to play when you’re cleaning out your car in the fall, and you find sand in the backseat, and you remember an old crush, a certain road trip, a moment in time that you’ll never get back but it was sweet, wasn’t it?
Best Coast, Big Star, even Don Henley’s chestnut “Boys of Summer,” if it’s not inextricably linked in your mind with your Rite-Aid shopping experiences, are all maestros of the sunset tune. The Beach Boys, of course, were masters at flipping between surf’s up summer and bittersweet California dream, often from one bar to the next.
Enter Eleanor Friedberger, the sister half of the musically rambunctious sibling duo known as the Fiery Furnaces, into the fray of nostalgic, September-cometh-too-soon heart pangers. ‘Last Summer,’ Friedberger’s first solo album, which drops next week, is a set of 10 songs that rifles through days long gone but not carried away by the tides of memory.
Crafted in the warm months of 2010, “Last Summer” is a feast for discerning nostalgists. Friedberger laments a trip not taken to our hippie culinary paradise, Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga, on a song that’s appropriately tricked out with psychedelic delays and reverb. “Roosevelt Island” has a strong set of lightly skronky funk-jazz bones to carry Friedberger’s tale of haphazardly jumping trams and subways in a time “when we didn’t have cellphones.” But it’s “Scenes from Bensonhurst,” with a hazy putter of a bass line, loosely strummed guitar and spots of sun-dazzled keys, that wraps its fingers around tight. “I lay in bed and dreamt I never said that,” Friedberger sings in her conversational cadence, the kind of big-sigh sentiment no summer can end without. It’s never clear what or who Friedberger’s singing about; ‘Scenes’ is more like a collection of images and memories, maybe best punctuated by the line, “Next, next, next. Now it’s all of them in my inbox.” Ah, the inbox, the repository for so many of our most intimate experiences, a set of footnotes to our lives valiantly protected by guardians Google, Yahoo and the old-school Hotmail. You can listen below to ‘Scenes from Bensonhurst,’ whilst you debate changing your email password to something your new summer love can’t figure out.
-- Margaret Wappler