On its surface, Rehearsing My Choir is one of those willfully difficult records that inevitably appeals to a very thin slice of the population (most likely those who lurk in the corners of indie record stores and complain about Royskopp B-sides), but once that initial “what the hell?” listen is past, The Fiery Furnaces (that’s Eleanor and Matt Friedberger if you’re nasty) reveal the method to their madness; Rehearsing My Choir is as much a living photo album as it is a loopy, esoteric sonic experiment. Working with their grandmother, Olga Sarantos, the Friedbergers fashion off-kilter vignettes from vivid memories of a life, viewed in nostalgic retrospect. Tracks like “The Wayward Granddaughter,” fueled by equal parts dulcimer and Daft Punk-esque blips, underlines the oddly self-referential theme threaded throughout this expansive effort. Rehearsing My Choir is littered with these expansive, free-ranging, kitchen sink compositions—the shattering “We Wrote Letters Everyday,” the unsettling “A Candymaker’s Knife In My Handbag”—that tell oddly compelling yet thoroughly human stories. Taken as a whole, Rehearsing My Choir has the air of a vanity project that could’ve gone awry but the Friedbergers approach it with such focus and candor that it transcends any whiff of kitsch. Much like indie oddballs The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, their “found” slides and corresponding songs, The Fiery Furnaces say something bracing and profound—it’s gently confrontational art that reveals its pleasures only to the willing.
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