Rumour has it that Bitter Tea was conceived as a work to be taken in tandem with the Fiery Furnaces' last CD, Rehearsing My Choir, a concept collabo with (and based on the life of) their granny, based on narratives from granddaughter Eleanor's perspective, though you can't tell from listening to this disc. The siblings Friedberger employ many of the same whimsical sleights-of-hand that made 2004's Blueberry Boat a critical smash: surrealist, stream-of-consciousness lyrical imagery, disjointed sonic structures that refuse to conform to verse-chorus paradigms, nifty synth effects contrasted with anachronistic upright pianos, Eleanor's clipped news-presenter delivery. Unfortunately, the tricks -- cloying in the first place -- sound even more tired here. Looping vocals backwards to give the effect of singing in Russian might be fascinating on one track, but not eight, and the constant aural disjunction makes for a gruelling listen. There are a few high points -- the delightfully gruesome subject matter of winsome ballad Teach Me Sweetheart, the beatbox-driven doo-wop of Waiting To Know You, the Bob Dylan shuffle of Police Sweater Blood Vow -- but they don't save an album where two-thirds of the songs fail to cohere.