Feist - Metals
To me, Metals is undoubtedly Leslie Feist's greatest accomplishment to date. I know a lot of people are lamenting the lack of lighthearted, cutesy-quirky pop songs but that's never been the aspect of Feist's music that has drawn me in - to be honest, I've always thought "1234" was one of The Reminder's weakest links and the songs that have stuck with me from that album are its darker, more atmospheric moments such as "The Park," "The Water" and "Intuition." Metals, then, is a perfect album for me because it's built from beginning to end on such sublime melancholy. Containing both some of the edgiest songs Feist has ever released and some of the subtlest, Metals is finally the album that, as a whole, is substantial enough to stand up to her spectacularly evocative vocals. In the past, I've mostly found her voice more memorable than the songs themselves but, here, the music is just as intriguing and complex as the many shades of Feist's vocal timbre. Even the poppier, peppier songs - "How Come You Never Go There," "The Circle Married the Line," "Bittersweet Melodies" - carry a certain amount of musical heft that transforms them into something more than delightful but ultimately frivolous concoctions. Still, the most intriguing tracks to be found on Metals are those that don't sound quite like anything Feist has ever done before or, rather, like more daring and large-scale versions of things she's tried to do before. Aching ballads like "Graveyard" and "Anti-Pioneer" aren't too dissimilar at their cores from much of Feist's past material but on Metals, in large part due to the addition of gorgeous string arrangements and strangely haunting group vocals, they soar and swell like never before and refrain from veering anywhere close to elevator music, a tendency which some of her past material has suffered from. Elsewhere, Feist travels even further outside her comfort zone, such as on the expansive opener "The Bad in Each Other," which is quirky but also remains very rooted, retaining an almost earthy, naturalistic quality despite its extremely layered and bombastic instrumentation. "Undiscovered First" follows along these same lines. It rises and falls effortlessly, building up from a restrained, foreboding opening to a sudden burst of energy in the chorus to a chaotic sea of voices and instrumentation at the end. Among such cacophony, however, Feist's pained delivery rings out clearly above all, and there is no more affecting moment on the entire album than when everything fades away and she wails nakedly, her voice echoing and distant as if in a cave, "Is this the way to live for me to be yours? Is this the way to live? Is it wrong to want more?" Overall, Metals is a phenomenal album, one that keeps giving the more you listen to it, which can't really be said for Feist's past efforts, at least in my personal experience. Though The Reminder was one of my favorite albums of the year when it was released in 2007, I've hardly listened to it since then. Metals, I feel, will keep revealing more to me far after the luster of newness has worn off.