“My Mistakes” – Eleanor Friedberger
“My Mistakes” starts abruptly, almost as if, yes, by mistake. Initially the sound is thin—a processed acoustic guitar and some trebly percussion. Full sound arrives with the chorus at 0:36. When it does, keep your ear on the bottom of the mix, on that bouncing bass synthesizer, which anchors the song with its deep octave oscillations, the likes of which would be difficult if not impossible to create on a standard bass guitar. The unusual bass line adds unexpected jauntiness to an otherwise edgy song—Friedberger’s offhanded vocal and lyric style often gives the impression she didn’t write any of this down ahead of time. Those steel-drum-like synthesizers that accompany and follow the chorus are another odd, sprightly touch.
As for said chorus, it is profoundly wonderful, even as it does not seem to have a particular hook, is not blatantly catchy, and would surely disappoint those who continue to believe, against all cultural evidence, that something has to sound wild and different to be worthy. Part of its mysterious allure has, I think, to do with its delayed, and surprise, resolution. The first two times we hear it, the chorus ends on the line, “I thought he’d let me in for one last time,” and from there goes right into those steel-drummy sounds. This seems like enough of an ending until, the third time around (3:01), Friedberger sings the chorus through twice, and the power of the music and lyrics here, via the simple act of repetition, is unexpected and true. Equally unexpected and true is the saxophone that joins in at 3:30 and plays out the song. For all its casual bounce and unsettled narrative arc, this is one potent song.
“My Mistakes” is the first song that’s been made available from her forthcoming album, Last Summer. Friedberger, as many know, is one half of the brother-sister band the Fiery Furnaces (previously featured here in 2006 and 2008). Last Summer is Friedberger’s solo debut; it will be released in July on Merge Records. MP3 via Merge.