Fingertips Explores the Archives: Fiery Furnaces - Benton Harbor Blues
Jeremy from Fingertips joins us every Friday as he scours the betterPropaganda archives, highlighting gems buried a few years back in our database.
This week we bring you "Benton Harbor Blues" from The Fiery Furnaces.
A brother-sister band known for idiosyncratic experimentation here delivers a delightful piece of almost classic-sounding pop (copping the keyboard and/or bass riff from the Four Tops strikes me as a neat touch). The fact that the Furnaces have revealed the capacity to spin out something this traditionally appealing changes everything, to me. It's just like knowing Picasso could draw beautifully when he wanted to; that he could and chose not to makes all the difference. In any case, everything else I've heard from the Fiery Furnaces (which I may go back and listen to again) has struck me as almost perversely odd (music critics like to call this "challenging"). But here they are, chugging to a keyboard-filled Motowny groove sounding both at home and still (if you listen closely) satisfyingly edgy. The drums have a pasted-on electronic itch to them that tells you this is more than a nostalgia trip, and singer Eleanor Friedberger's delicious, drip-dry delivery has no reason to sound so good in this context but boy does it. Don't miss the mini keyboard concert that arrives at around 1:56, which features both ghostly flourishes and an organ-like series of ascensions and descensions. "Benton Harbor Blues" is pretty much an anomaly on their Bitter Tea CD, which was released in April 2006 on Fat Possum Records; the rest of the disc is apparently still somewhat challenging, as has been much of their output since.
- Jeremy Schlosberg