The Fiery Furnaces Rehearsing My Choir

When the Fiery Furnaces dropped the bomb that was Blueberry Boat last year, listeners were immediately divided into what became "love” and "hate” groups. Although difficult at first, each listen revealed more about the highly audacious album and it won over some naysayers. Well, for those who found their previous album a little tough to swallow, you haven’t heard anything yet. Recruiting their 83-year-old grandmother Olga Sarantos to lead this pseudo-concept album, the Friedbergers — Eleanor and Matt — have delivered another challenge for their listeners, and truth be told, the challenge is all in the unsavoury voice of the pensioner. There’s no way around it: Ms. Sarantos’s aged accent and offbeat delivery is as easy to swallow as a frosted mug of broken glass. However, we shouldn’t be surprised; the Fiery Furnaces warned us, and those looking for something accessible will find it in the New Year’s Bitter Tea — this is their record to do as they please. Recorded with help of John McEntire, Rehearsing is hardly a meaningless experiment. The siblings have taken this opportunity to work with Sarantos, their hero, and crafted this album as a paean to her. In doing so, they’ve evoked the spirit of mid-20th century Chicago with a loopy, dual narrative carried out by Eleanor and her gran. Matt’s held strictly to the background as the musical maestro, designing another spaced-out collage of childish prog-pop with hammered harpsichords, psych-rock freak-outs and an array of synthesised handiwork. This is wildly imaginative and as original as contemporary music can get, but definitely not for everyone and not for every Fiery Furnaces fan. Still, if you can get your head around this, you’ll appreciate this amazing band more than ever. (Rough Trade)