The best Leslie Feist songs mix whimsy and realness into an emotional antioxidant smoothie. Pleasure is her first record in six years. Metals was a bit misunderstood since the pure pop fantasies of her previous singles “Mushaboom” and “1 2 3 4” weren’t indicative of the overall direction of the project. Feist has been on her way to the immediate since ’04. We have seen a progression through an imaginary house of sound. Let It Die was her bedroom record, The Reminder her living room record, Metals was her front porch record, and Pleasure is her garage record.
Moving from iPod commercials to garage ubiquity is an almost unknown move and it pays massive dividends here. Feist is sounding her most directional in a decade. That’s not to say Metals was weak — it was the record the critics wanted, not necessarily the people with one Feist song in their iTunes. Here she takes the anti-fan service to its logical conclusion: an impossibly raw and immediate record dripping with emotion and nowness.
But Feist doesn’t play immediacy for a lack of intimacy. “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You” is the most emotional track I have heard in 2017, playing its in-the-moment guitar track and demo production to the max, mixed with playful harmonies and regret. It is the audio equivalent of the cover, beauty plus wonder plus contrition — who is that woman? Why is she leaving? Or is she just arriving? Feist is a master at this play, echoing Metals’ instant classic “The Circle Married the Line”.
The lyrics reveal a mid-life shift for kitschy positivity dipped in grief. Her voice carries so much emotion you don’t have to cognitively hear the lyrics at all to gather the intent of the track. Luckily the lyrics carry an equal amount, uncovering a weighty record wrapped in bright pink paper. Lyrical highlights carry the record, such as, “You know I’d leave any party for you / ‘Cause the town has shrunk to the size of my thoughts / I wanted feelings, that got in the way.”
“Lost Dreams”, coos its way into your heart until “Any Party” brings the classic Leslie jangling guitar patterns. She strums like a person who learned to play guitar yesterday and uses her voice as a piercing weapon over top. The volume she hits the strings at varies wildly only adding to the constant reminder of the celerity with which she recorded. Think of the opposite of what Sea Change sounds like, this is untucked, this is high school, this is lipstick-smeared clamorous pop. If you don’t feel something as the BGVs kick in undergirding the male echoes on “Any Party”, head to a hospital ASAP. when they ask you what’s wrong say, “my heart.”
“The Wind” blows like a Mount Eerie track’s playful recording mistakes, but Elliott Smith’s ear for melody progression. “Century” pushes and pulls and only waits 31 seconds to unleash its most melodic hook. It builds on top of itself with consistent movement and tension, until it all explodes into a simple drum clattering, hovering synthesizers, and a British narration. It’s the most unexpected moment on Pleasure, but it highlights Feist’s underrated sense of humor. The quality is consistent enough through 11 tracks that any could be your highlight.
It’s remarkably cheesy but I guess I will be the one to say that this record is a pleasure to listen to. Could that be the hidden secret here? Could Feist be meta enough to call her record what you feel when you listen to it? Like if Joy Division called one of their records “Anxiety” and the Beach Boys called their record “Party” — wait, didn’t they do that?
Either way, Feist is having more fun than she has since she was surrounded by rainbows helping sell iPods that are all now sitting in landfills and your mom’s junk drawer. She has outlasted an entire generation of music consumption and with this record, I wouldn’t be surprised if she outlasted another. B PLUS