Eleanor Friedberger is full of stories. Ask her what she's been listening to lately, and the Fiery Furnaces singer – who's currently touring her excellent new solo album, Personal Record – will share a series of frequently hilarious anecdotes about the people and places she associates with her favorite songs. Here's what Friedberger had to say about eight tunes sh's loving right now, from old English folk to new Bowie to a reggae cover of the Everly Brothers:
The Doors, "Light My Fire"
"I had a boyfriend when I was in high school, and he only listened to the Doors and U2. Like, literally. That was what he would say: 'I only like those two bands.' Which, of course, made me not like either of them. But this morning, I went on a little Doors bender, and you can't beat it – I mean, it just sounds so great. You hear the song on the radio, and of course you turn it up, because it sounds so good. But you do have to be in the right mood."
John Cale, "Amsterdam"
"I love John Cale's voice very much. If I had to choose one song, it would probably be this, even though it's not necessarily what I think is his best song – because I get to hear his voice so clearly. I guess I like the depth of it. I like that it's deep. Welsh accents are very strange, and they make for good singers. You can't really tell where he's from, you know? And that song is very pretty. If I wanted to be, like, lullabied to sleep, that would be one I would listen to, probably."
Fleetwood Mac, "Walk a Thin Line"
"This friend of mine has a bunch of records in his kitchen, and one of them is Tusk. Maybe he's drunk or something, but he keeps saying, 'Your song "Roosevelt Island" sounds like this song.' Like, three times now, he's told me. I'm like, 'Ah, OK, I guess, if you say so.' But I still can't figure out which song he's talking about. I started listening to the album again recently because of that. I listened to 'Walk A Thin Line,' which is at the very end of the album. It has this double drumming – I don't know why more people don't use that trick. It couldn't have been the one he was talking about. But it's really good."
David Bowie, "Where Are We Now"
"I love the song as much as how it was released: with no fanfare, no warning; just a very strange little video. Seeing Bowie standing against a wall wearing just jeans and a t-shirt: Too real! I never imagined he'd put out a song in 2013 that could make me cry, but all of his years and experiences seem to be deeply entrenched in that song, and it's very moving."
The Incredible String Band, "Letter"
"There's a song on my new album called 'I Am the Past' where I was definitely trying to sound like the Incredible String Band. The songs that I like by them, I really, really, really love. They just kill me. I don't like a lot of traditional English folk, because I don't like the singing – it's very precious. But the singing on this song is very aggressive, almost like rock singing. It's kind of ugly-sounding, in some ways, which I like. I like how messy it sounds."
Jimmy London, "Cathy's Clown"
"I went to Jamaica in January, which is the second time I've been there. And I like reggae, but what I really like hearing are famous songs that are covered by reggae artists. I'm not a big fan of covers in general – it's just never as good, and it's just like, what's the point? But when I hear a reggae version of a song I already love, it's almost better somehow. I could listen to this stuff all day. Jimmy London's version of 'Cathy's Clown' is one of my all-time favorites. I have to say, I prefer his version over the Everly Brothers. There's nothing not to like about it, in my opinion."
Richard and Linda Thompson, "Withered And Died"
"Three friends, separately, told me I should listen to I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight. I finally got it after one of them asked me to sing 'Withered And Died' with him. I taught myself the song – which immediately changes one's relationship to any song. Suddenly you own it. He and I never played the song together, but I sang it at Town Hall opening for Rodriguez in April and it made me feel like a real singer."
Lux Perpetua, "For Whom the Stone Rolls" [unreleased]
"One of the guys who's playing in my touring band played me this song. I've been listening to it constantly. We were rehearsing, and they played it from his iPod on the PA of the practice space, and everyone was, like, 'Oooh, what's this?' We all left practice bouncing along to it. I had no idea who the band was. It sounded kind of new and old. That's a great feeling, when you hear something and you can't place it."
"I keep talking about the Doors. My other interesting experience with Jim Morrison is, I did this show a couple years ago that John Cale produced. He did it again recently, but I wasn't invited back to do it for some reason. This one was celebrating what would have been Nico's 70th birthday, and Mark Lanegan was one of the other performers. So I'm standing there, onstage, watching him. I had never seen him before. You know, he looked and sounded so much like Jim Morrison. I'd never made that connection. I was just, like, completely floored. [Laughs] I was actually supposed to be next, and I completely screwed up my entrance. It was just terrible."