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Feist

Let It Die

(Interscope; US: 26 Apr 2005; UK: 12 Jul 2004)

You know, no one has ever explored the full potential of lounge music.


We know these quiet pretty ditties as background fixtures in hotels worldwide, harmless classlessness masquerading as class, functioning merely as a sonic tranquilizer for world-weary minds.


Mood music gets no respect these days, actually. It seems to be on the ass end of the critical scale—a derogatory term flung by American Idol judges to describe contestants who sing unchallenging crowd-pleasing songs.


But you see, lounge music can be so much more. The soothing nature of the genre evokes a relaxant effect on the listener, left in a state of vulnerability. The defenses drop, and open the listener to be susceptible to the elements of the music. Far from the blackmasking of satanic subliminal messages, the key effect is actually amplification.


In other words—lyrics suddenly have more resonance, arrangements have more clarity, and the singer’s soul is akin to a full-frontal striptease instead of discreet unveiling. And when someone like Feist takes control of the music instead of pseudo-diva just doing her job, what we have is transcendence.


Feist’s voice is not unlike that of fellow indie queen Cat Power, possessing a smooth sultry croon whose simplicity holds the music together in the tight environs of melodic minimalism. Coupled with the hypnotic accompaniment, Feist penetrates deep into our feeble souls and makes her sob stories our sob stories, her love dalliances our love dalliances, her search for God our search for God.


A few of the tracks sounds like typical Kings of Convenience songs, driven by sensual bossa nova rhythms, sans the harmonized coos of Erlend and Eirik. This is no big loss, really. After all, Feist’s parts in Riot on an Empty Street were also its highlights, a welcome sophisticated contrast to all that sensitive testosterone. Tracks like “Leisure Suite” and “When I Was a Young Girl” start off like something from the Norwegian duo but ends up in the domain of Feist’s female pop sensibilities.


Let It Die‘s first single “Mushaboom “exhibits the spirituality of the genre. It combines traces of vaudeville, old school gospel and the clappity-clap joyousness of the square dance. You know, all the fun that people had before the television. Some Cakewalk-inserted spoken whispers of ‘mushaboom’ and the interspersing of lo-fi trumpets gives it grounding in present postmodern times. However, its heart belongs to the spirituals of old, a three-minutes equivalent of a hallelujah chant that is subtle in its overwhelming enchantment.


To keep up with the spiritual theme, the title track “Let It Die” sounds remarkably like a hymn, albeit jazzed up by modern embellishments so favored by CCM bands these days. The difference is—instead of singing about Jesus, the Feist noir-like vocals sings over considerably less godly topic of a tattered relationship. The divine intimacy expressed in song by the forefathers of the church is appropriated by Feist for her wounds. She licks them with a soft sigh and a sad tune. Perhaps, she yearns for an amazing grace to save the wretch she made of her love life.


Further into the album, Feist sneaks in some pleasant surprises in between the sheets. Some soft electronic embellishing on one song, an untypical bass run on the other—little jolts that makes lounge music alive—mesmerizing in its allure, seductive in its connection.


Pop perfection. Eleven sensual spirituals meant for those lounge-dwelling existentialist souls.

Rating:

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