43.) The Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat (2004)
The Fiery Furnaces have been, without a doubt, one of the definitive bands to emerge this decade even if they aren't necessarily the most beloved. Having said that, I respect the hell out of them. Sonically, there have been few bands as risky and even when I don't particularly like a record of theirs, I can still find merit in it somewhere.
The Fiery Furnaces have been polarizing by often attacking their work less as music and more as one long continuous art project. Pretentious as hell, but when it clicks it can be something truly mesmerizing and beautiful. I don't, however, think they've yet managed to eclipse the weird majesty of their second record, Blueberry Boat.
I really fell for the Fiery Furnaces first record Gallowsbird's Bark and while it was clear by that record this was certainly a quirky band, it didn't quite prepare me for the grandeur of Blueberry Boat. It doesn't surprise me that some people have had hard time with Blueberry Boat and further it doesn't surprise me to hear that people downright hate it. It's that kind of record. The Furnaces seem to be peddling whimsy, but it's the kind of whimsy they take very, very seriously. I can see how that seems false. It's difficult to have it both ways, but for me it worked immediately.
Blueberry Boat was not an exercise for me. I got swept up very quickly. In fact, Blueberry Boat is a record I distinctly remember listening to with a certain expectation and when I got something else, I immediately went back and listened again. In fact, I listened to Blueberry Boat back to back four times on that first day...and it's a long record, but it's a record with so much going on that if you don't pore over it you'll miss most of it.
If you've ever seen the Furnaces live you know they weave songs together, oftentimes in snippits, to create one large soundscape - a movement of sorts. Of their records, Blueberry Boat is the most representative of that missive. There are epic mini-operas on this record that oftentimes have three or four different ideas going on, but somehow they manage to bring them all together to create something that feels anything but disjointed.
The Fiery Furnaces have a spotty cannon for sure, but for a moment on Blueberry Boat they managed to create something challenging for sure, but also rewarding. It's a modern day masterpiece.
Posted by Pat Driscoll