This is no clever tribute record mind, or accomplished addition to an already impressive back catalogue; this is a bona fide classic.
I love Eleanor Friedberger’s work, all of it. And I think this, given a few plays, could easily be better than her debut Last Summer, which was also a cracker. Personal Record is just such an enjoyable, cosy listen. Cosy in the sense that it’s often about you and her working through some “stuff”, everyday stuff, stuff about “this and that”: you can just sit back and enjoy the kooky story of When I Knew or get swept up in the brilliantly bittersweet Other Boys.
The last LP was all about the minutiae of her life, packed with detailed observations about particular scenarios and whilst that was fun to listen into, it could only really be a leper’s squint for most of us. On Personal Record - despite the title - a lot of the subject matter could be applied to lots of other people, you could nab some of the sentiments in I Don’t Want To Bother You or I’ll Never Be Happy Again and apply it to your own life, that’s for sure. This is a classic pop record. She’s absolutely nailed that pop trick of the broad populist gesture given a magical, fleeting shape by the precise observation and a winning melody. Nailed it.
It also sounds a classic American record, its roots in Love, Johnny Richman or Talking Heads. The arrangements have that crisp, fresh rasp that lots of great US rock records have: When I Knew and My Own World sound like a classic strut in the style of The Modern Lovers, the latter hinting at Joni Mitchell too. Stare At The Sun is a brilliant skiffle that snaps and nibbles at the heels of What Goes On whereas She’s A Mirror takes the chords from the odious Maneater and bathes them in sweet oils, offers libations to the Muses and finally gives them release from all those years of being associated with that particular sonic crime.
This is no clever tribute record mind, or accomplished addition to an already impressive back catalogue; this is a bona fide classic. I tell you, you will not find many who can pull off the emotional juggling that the last track Singing Time throws up. And pull it off with such aplomb, that whole moment when Friedberger sings “Let’s go” is fab, a brilliant affirmative statement.
A great record, enjoy it, in the old fashioned way.