When I first saw the brother and sister team of Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger play a show as the Fiery Furnaces eight years ago, I was so impressed that I said on the way home "I have a new favourite band." That was around the time of their debut album Gallowsbird's Bark and I followed their output ever since, through a prolific and challenging set of releases that managed to alternate between thrilling me and trying my patience. For instance, their fourth album Rehearsing My Choir features spoken word narration from their grandmother and a lot of the Bitter Tea album was built around backing tracks running backwards.

Now after nine albums in just over six years with her brother, Eleanor has released her first solo album Last Summer. It's an accessible collection of indie-pop songs as well as an autobiographical account of the time she first moved to Brooklyn around 10 or 11 years ago; her half spoken, half sung vocal style gives the songs a very personal touch. It's either a diary or a memoir; I'm not sure which term suits it best. 

Whilst it is easy to accuse the Friedbergers of arthouse ramblings and self-indulgence in the past, here Eleanor totally captures the feeling of being young and alive in a big city - of being lost and giddy and naive - through her evocative words and some perfectly carefree pop music.

She's off and running with her familiar manic vocal delivery as soon as opening track 'My Mistakes' starts. “You know I do my best thinking when I’m flying down the bridge” is the opening line, and we are immediately transported back there, to 2001, in the days before 9/11 when Brooklyn Bridge was “just a wooden path.” It's a straightforwardly simple but brilliant pop song, with a saxophone solo which takes it back to an even earlier time, evoking carefree summer hits of yesteryear.

'Inn of the Seventh Ray' shows that the sonically challenging aspect of her main band isn't that far away, with very creative backing vocals, interesting beats and an appropriately psychedelic swirl. Again she is reminiscing and she rattles through several locations and scenarios, and she hasn't a care as she remembers “watching Footloose with biggest bottle of vodka,” instead of visiting the famous LA hippie restaurant. 

'Heaven' is one of the catchiest songs she has ever done, it has a summery vibe, and in fact she has said that she imagined it as a happy 1970s song that would easily fit on Sesame Street.  Along with the break-up song 'I Won’t Fall Apart On You Tonight' it’s the most immediate tune here.

'Scenes from Bensonhurst' is an intriguing, dreamlike song and you never quite know what she is singing about.  As a refrain, “I lay in bed and dreamt I never said that,” comes with a whiff of regret.  “I lay in bed and tempt myself with my screen/ Next, next, next, now it’s all of them in my inbox,” suggests how the internet has helped shape intimate relationships.

'Roosevelt Island' is propelled along by funky, jazzy keyboards. It’s the longest track here and has the most elaborate arrangement, another giddy retelling of a trip and the images that have stuck in her mind from that day.  Last Summer's producer is Eric Broucek who has worked on a lot of DFA releases, and although this is very much an indie-rock record there is close attention to the beats throughout. 'One-Month Marathon' is the sexiest song on the album (“For my last ensemble I will be wearing nothing at all”), though it's such a personal story you do wonder what is going on. There seems to be some connection with 7th Avenue and the Fashion district but she does keep repeating that she will be playing in your closet and poking through your drawers.  Although it does make me smile, it’s another wistful song, “I wish it was just the three of us, you, me and her," she sighs.

'Owl's Head Park' is maybe too rambling and personal for a lot of casual listeners but it's crucial to the whole feel of the album. It's a dreamy downbeat saga where she remembers getting new parts for her bike and then getting lost in the depths of the city. If you don't like this, you won't like Last Summer and you certainly won't like Fiery Furnaces, but in contrast to the giddy rush of memories earlier on the album this is a more reflective and indulgent take on things.

Her distinctive vocal style, semi-spoken and often keen to fit as many words into a line as possible, is off-putting for some, but I love it. I’ve always thought the closest comparison is early 80s Mark E Smith, and it’s surely no coincidence that the Fiery Furnaces once did a fine cover of the Fall’s Winter, often cited as one of Smith’s most poetic moments. A lot of Last Summer’s rambles seem to me to be coming from a similar place.

Ultimately Last Summer is a personal diary, the musical equivalent of flicking through a lot of old photos and trying to put a story to each one.  Some of them deserve a single line and a wistful smile; others need to be dwelt on in detail.  It’s a fine collection of songs and, as an account of what it feels like to be young and free and alive in a new city, it’s just about perfect.