It’s great when things go full circle in life. As an example, I enjoy frequenting a site called NYC Taper, a site created by a gentleman known by the same moniker, who goes to concerts and (with the permission of the artists) records their set, releasing it into the wild as it were on his site. He does not ask for money for this endeavor however he requests that if you download a high quality audio recording of a band that you try to visit the band’s site and support them by buying their albums or merchandise.
It was through NYC Taper that I first discovered The Fiery Furnaces a little more than a year ago. Now, having listened to their live performances and having bought a few of their records I am ready to tell you as a fan of their music how wonderfully lyrical it is — and not just that but how fantastic the band is at telling fully engaging stories.
Take the fantastic song Straight Street, for example. You can listen to it for free if you have a Spotify account right here. The lyrics of this song, like many songs by The Fiery Furnaces, are quite dense and flow quickly from the singer’s mouth as she sings them so have a look at them here:
Tea time at Damascus computer café,
I’m looking busy and straring off the other way.
Leverkusen, Juventus; Leeds v Valencia:
I’m over-hearing all their nonsense in extensia.
They’re talking too tough for me to inspect
so I have to smell who seems the best to connect.
I pick my clique and set to go to work
It starts off as any good narrative does with an introduction of where we are and what is happening. The character is quickly introduced and we get a feel for what kind of person she is based on what she is doing. The narrative continues with a description of action she takes and over the course of the song continues as our protagonist finds herself on a quest for sales. A little later in the song, she relates the following:
So I went to Georgia looking at spas and convents
tried to make myself the broker for selling off the contents.
At the big change clinic my friends said don’t be a cynic
you should work in Baku this is watcha gotta do:
Call a contact in Texas talk to ‘em in their Lexus
on their hands-free device and don’t be too nice.
It is true that many songwriters tell stories in their songs but the descriptive nature of the lyrics of the Fiery Furnaces make you feel like you are right there with the protagonist in any given song.
This is how it is on the recorded versions of the songs — studio recordings, that is. This takes us back to the stage where the band does things a bit differently. This brings us back full circle to how I found the band to begin with — from their live recordings. When they are playing out live, instead of playing a set list of music night after night they tend to mix up their songs and sometimes even combine a couple of songs into one.
Brother-sister duo Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger reconstruct their songs every time they hit the road, resulting in versions that differ widely in instrumentation, tempo and arrangement from the originals. The band never repeats itself, and sometimes goes as far as combining multiple songs (or even bits of an entire album) to create an intricate musical collage.
I can imagine a writer going out on the road with the stories that he publishes in magazines, telling them to audiences and never telling them the same way twice. That is how I imagine the Fiery Furnaces are when they play live shows. Having learned about them from the wonderful NYC Taper I look forward to the next time I will be able to see them play live — and you should do the same!