"Metals," Feist

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

source: listentofeist.com
I'm of two minds when it comes to Feist's newest album, "Metals" ... I find it simultaneously boring yet varied in its insipidness. And apparently I'm the only one who thinks insipidness is a bad thing, because critics gave the album generally high marks.

Maybe I was just going through some newly-graduated, still-trying-to-be-hipster phase in 2007/2008 when Feist (first name Leslie)'s last album "The Reminder" was a hit, but I loved that Feist. This was the Feist with a handful of smooth, quirky and even sultry hits, including "1234," "My Moon My Man," a cover of the Bee Gees' "Love You Inside Out" and her cover of Ron Sexsmith's "Secret Heart." (She has a talent for covers, apparently.)

2011 Feist, now 35, seems significantly sleepier and drearier. Which is a natural progression, I suppose. There is a subtle infusion of '70s or maybe even southern flavor to this album, which makes the laziness a touch more dynamic than, say, an album of lullabies.

"How Come You Never Go There," the album's first single, is coy and playful until you realize she isn't even enunciating in a way that the listener can understand. "Cicadas and Gulls" brings us back to the 2000s with folk that is stripped of the shimmer and tambourines. "Anti-Pioneer" is probably the most egregious in its lugubriousness. It's also at this point I want to shake Leslie Feist and scream, "Enunciate, dammit, enunciate! You're still alive, aren't you?"

Among the songs, "Bittersweet Melodies" is my clear favorite. It's languid without putting me to sleep, and I can actually understand what Feist is singing. Elements of the song remind me of "It's Too Late" by Carole King.

source: Feist's Facebook page
Her official site (listentofeist.com) is eerie in an interesting way.
But the more I listen to it, the more I think "Metals" plays out like a soundtrack set to a 1970s heist movie, one that is more about being aesthetically pleasing than telling a good story. "Undiscovered First" might serve as a good opening credits song; it picks up slowly and sneakily attacks midway through with a flourish of tambourines. "A Commotion" would be perfect for a getaway scene, alongside some railroad tracks in the middle of nowhere. "The Circle Married the Line" would be the score of the requisite love scene of the film, where man comes together with woman and they disappear behind sheer chiffon curtains over open windows looking over picturesque but edgy Paris. (This movie could only be set in Paris and the French countryside ... explanation to come.)

The album's final track, "Get It Wrong, Get It Right," is an amalgam of everything between the '70s and now, maybe except for the wild '80s. There are bells and chimes, maracas, a harp, whistling, random metal and wood pieces clamoring together. Maybe Feist is trying to be Philip Glass here in her analog rawness, but to me, it's distracting and downright trying too hard to not seem like she's trying too hard. Too bad, because the vocals are fine and the melody has real potential.

Maybe I'm just getting old to be attuned to the hipsters and their blunt bangs (which I can say certitude does not suit me at all) -- it seems there are just so many people trying too hard to be Jane Birkin circa 1966. There's Charlotte Gainsbourg (mostly exempt for being Jane's daughter), Feist*, Cat Power ... they're practically interchangeable in sound and look. I won't knock too hard, because I have the music of all 3 women on my iPod. But Feist's music seems to have lost the sparkle it once had, the inspiring sparkle that gave the Jane Birkin comparison legitimacy.

* Feist and Jane Birkin worked together on a song called "The Simple Story" in the early 2000s

"Metals," Feist on Spotify

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