Album Review: Feist - Metals

Feist certainly isn’t interested in producing tidy little pop songs we can all feel warm and fuzzy about while sipping our mocha frappucinos.

B+ | 10.04.11 | Cherrytree / Interscope | Stream | MP3 | Vinyl | CD

Feist - How Come You Never Go There

The 200th episode of Later...with Jools Holland was, to put it lightly, a seminal moment in music history. Of course Thom Yorke was there gyrating his sinewy body in spasmodic fits unseen since the second coming. Chan Marshall was surging every watt of Cat Power out of her hip heartbroken frame. But the chanteuse that really got people movin, even Mary J herself was bumpin to it, was Leslie Feist’s “Sealion”. Sure she played the what must have been the painfully ubiquitous “1234” (which was actually written by Sally Seltmann) and “I Feel it All” (in the vein of The Inbetweeners), but the sheer earth-quaking might captured in her voice alone was enough to make me forget all about commoditized coffee shop crooning.

It’s been almost five years since her bellwether The Reminder, during which our Canadian sprite in question starred in Kevin Drew’s The Water as the silently emotive Mother character and also taught kids how to count to four on Sesame Street (I thought that was Count’s job?) among numerous other endeavors. For an 18-month period she never even touched her guitar. It simply sulked in the corner of her room because “I didn’t think I had anything to offer it”. But after dusting off her musical cobwebs on this her fourth album, it’s quite clear that she’s exorcised all the encroaching fame demons, casting them asunder with a hammer and a whisper.

There’s no mistaking that the stark timpani pounding and declaration of “Speak plain/he said” are the opening salvo of a ballad that demands we hold on tight as we reach the conclusion that “A good man and a good woman bring out the worst in each other” on rousing opening number “The Bad in Each Other”. Brian LeBarton’s (Beck) keys bristle with her plaintive timbre before we are lifted even higher by a cheery children’s choir at the end of “Graveyard”.

“Caught a Long Wind” and final track “Get it Wrong, Get it Right” seem connected via her innate fascination with natural imagery and metallic chimes that occasionally flutter and fade away like leaves swirling across the windswept plains she traveled across as a child in Saskatchewan. Her longtime confidants and producers Gonzales and Somali-Canadian Mocky must have spent countless studio hours arranging the gorgeous strings radiating beneath these two somber standouts.

It seems that for every lullaby on this album, there’s a swift kick to the nuts right around the corner, and “A Commotion” is certainly wearing some high-heeled black leather boots that leave a lasting impression. But when we’re not reeling from pain or wandering through the woods we still get glimpses of her sultry side. “How Come You Never Go There” has all that Carly Simon who-needs-a-man sass with backing harmonies you might hear at a posh speakeasy. Along with the cathartic pitch climbing of “The Circle Married the Line” is the equally poignant “Comfort Me” bookended by the clever inversion of syllables on the line “When you comfort me/It doesn’t bring me comfort actually”.

If Metals has one fault, its that it’s trying to hard to straddle too many musical trajectories instead of unifying them under one harmonious banner. You can hear that she hints on what she’s relied on in the past and is simultaneously trying to divorce herself from the preconceived notions we all now possess of her. An aural Napoleonic complex bared before us. She certainly isn’t interested in producing tidy little pop songs we can all feel warm and fuzzy about while sipping our mocha frappucinos. This is a statement, and a powerful one at that.

Feist - Metals