Sometimes a night out can be more than just a night out. It can be an eye-opener, a resetter, a life-saver. In the aftermath of the 2016 US election, Eleanor Friedberger decamped to Athens, intending to write her fourth solo album there. It wasn’t until a night out at an ’80s goth disco whose doors only opened in the small hours one night a week that she found the inspiration she needed to begin work.
‘It’s Hard’, with its clipped guitars and rubbery synths, details her first revelatory trip to the club with typical poetic ease. “Down the stairs, laugh, no smoking sign / Coat’s covered in ash and my heart’s still full of wine,” she narrates, building each step into the dark, smoky room with each word. The vaguely familiar, lugubrious sound (“Sounds familiar, but it’s sure not The Cure”) she found there lightly colours the whole of ‘Rebound’. ‘Make Me A Song’ opens with the whirring ripple of synths that drop into the distance as new layers arrive. ‘The Letter’ is beautifully curbed, musically speaking - its melodies gently glimmering in a way that suggests they could take off if they wanted to, but they’re fine flying this low.
As on her previous albums, what makes Eleanor’s songwriting feel magical are the stories she tells and the tiny details she drops in. On album highlight ‘Are We Good?’, she sings of her travels, recalling proposing “to a woman for a man last night” and, later, killing seven snakes while mowing the lawn. “Outside a gas station, a dog winked at me / He’s not even barking in the right language,” she sings dryly seconds later. It’s a surreal trip that feels like you’re voyaging through someone else’s dreams or scattered, fragmented memories. Like ‘Rebound’ as a whole, that’s its charm.