Friday, October 14, 2011

First Impressions: Metals by Feist

Read more reviews and music articles on my Arts page.
Feist’s 2007 The Reminder was an unexpected hit, although in retrospect its success isn’t surprising: intentionally or not, she hit all the buttons of the modern promotion machine – viral video on YouTube (the charming color-coordinated choreography of “1234”), a song in an iPod ad, and multiple TV appearances. Burnt out, she disappeared for a couple of years.

Now she’s emerged with Metals, an album that lacks the obvious and immediate pop hooks of the previous effort, but is, especially with repeated listens, an even stronger record, with an emphasis on quiet chamber pop and instrumental experimentation (along the lines of what I’d expect from someone who was so involved with Toronto’s experimental pop collective Broken Social Scene).

The tone is set immediately when the simple drumbeat and handclaps that start “The Good in Each Other” segue into an urgent guitar and keyboard figure. The verses are dramatic but then the whole structure changes in the chorus with sax and strings offering a sad counterpoint as she sings “When a good man and a good woman can’t find the best in each other, then a good man and a good woman will bring out the worst in each other.”

This is followed by “Graveyard,” a song that initially matches the expectations of its title with minor-key acoustic guitar and sad vocals. But it builds slowly and gently around the repeated phrase “Bring them all back to life” and comes to an unexpectedly upbeat ending.

“Commotion” is another standout, a simple backing of rapidly stroked strings and piano with spare vocals, interrupted by a sudden shouted chorus.

As always, Leslie Feist’s voice remains a wonderful expressive instrument, changing tones and undulating sweetly to match the song. “The Circle Married the Line” is a beautiful showcase for these talents. Her voice chimes and aches. It’s soft and wistful on “Bittersweet Melodies.” And “Comfort Me” is a tour-de-force.

A great mood piece, dark and sonically interesting, this is another wonderful step in this intriguing singer-songwriter’s career.

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