Last fall, Matt Friedberger told me that he and his sister Eleanor had been working on some snappy girl-group love songs for their next album. It seemed the most counterintuitive move yet for the cryptic NYC duo, whose previous disc was a spoken-word séance hosted by their 83-year-old grandmother. Not to worry — Bitter Tea is another hyperactive head trip, tumbling precipitously through a thousand looking glasses on its way to the Shangri-Las. The album delivers on Matt’s additional promise of “psychedelic Satanism” with a dense thicket of backward vocals. Yet a spare melancholy lurks underneath the pianos and corroded synth fantasias, and Eleanor’s porcelain voice rings out aching-sweet, leaping past her classic-rock belting on 2004’s Blueberry Boat (Rough Trade). As her sobs swell in reverse on “Black-Hearted Boy,” she’s as entrancing as the Venus de Milo.
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