Just when you thought you'd never hear a straightforward recording by the Fiery Furnaces again, along comes their new album I'm Going Away (Thrill Jockey). It's the most classic-rocking record of their career and the least cluttered since 2005's EP, and it couldn't come at a better time. After seven years of flaunting their restless creativity, siblings Matt and Eleanor Friedberger take it easy for once—and the result is their most lived-in album, and one of their best.

I'm Going Away sounds the way it does for a reason. "For this album, Matt and I made a real effort to write the songs together," says Eleanor over lunch at Five Leaves, a bistro near her Brooklyn apartment. Though their 2003 debut, Gallowsbirds Bark, was largely cowritten, the bulk of the Furnaces' catalog has been penned by Matt alone. Matt is a master embellisher, as anyone who's read his interviews can confirm, but his fractured lyrics and musical fripperies can be exhausting. This time, the siblings vowed to keep things simple. "We talked about writing songs together in a short amount of time, which we did in my house over a couple of weeks last fall," says Eleanor. "We wanted to record at home and not go to a studio; we'd recorded the live record with Jason Loewenstein, so we wanted to do a whole studio record with him."

Ah, the live record. That's Remember, a 2008 double-CD that takes the Furnaces' cut-up style to its furthest extreme. Most live albums mix together tracks taken from different concerts; Remember splices together different versions of each song within the song—"Blueberry Boat," the opener, features nine audible edits. Eleanor herself, while pleased with the disc, uses the word "jarring" to describe it. It began as something relatively straightforward—the group played their live medley of 2006's Bitter Tea at Eleanor's apartment, with Loewenstein engineering. "Jason had been recording our shows, and it's kind of hard to hold back when we had so much material. So we decided to keep going. All the editing—that was something Matt wanted to do. With 'Blueberry Boat,' it was shocking for me to hear at first. It's really exciting, because it's such a record of how much we've done over the last few years."

Remember was also something of a dead end: How much further can you take that method? Besides, Eleanor wanted to shift the dynamic of the group, which began in 2000. "I'd already been living in New York," she says of the band's origins. "Then Matt moved [here]. It seemed natural to ask him to play with me—he was the best musician I knew. I already had a lot of songs, but I knew he could help me make them better. [At first,] it felt very much like it was my thing. And then it became our thing together, and then it felt almost like it was Matt's thing and I was helping him."

Of course, the Furnaces remain mischievous. In July, the duo announced on their website that each Friedberger would separately remake I'm Going Away in its entirety, with new arrangements: "Only the words will remain the same. Though in Eleanor's case, the singer remains the same. The song, never. Or mostly never." Was this a joke?

Nope—it had been sent in for mastering a week before Eleanor and I spoke. (They plan to issue the rival versions digitally, with download coupons available at the merch table on tour and, down the road, a vinyl release for sale at shows.) In some cases, Eleanor reverted to her original arrangements: "Like the song 'Even in the Rain'—I had made a song and played it for Matt, and he changed the arrangement but kept all the words." The opposite happened with "Ray Bouvier": Eleanor threw out Matt's more complicated structure and retooled it with three chords. "We actually use my arrangement when we play live because it's easier to play," she says.

All of this sounds like a hell of a lot of activity, especially in an age when two or more years between albums is standard practice for indie-rock bands. Eleanor claims the Furnaces have no game plan: "Unfortunately, we're so disorganized. Matt and I are really starting to crave some more consistency and structure [in] our lives. We've been both blessed and cursed by not having that much success." recommended