Music

Feist: Metals

The sunniness of "1234" has left the building, and if the majority of Metals is any indication, Feist's musical journey has taken a turn for the dark.


Feist

Metals

Label: Interscope
US Release Date: 2011-10-04
UK Release Date: 2011-10-03
Label Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Leslie Feist’s 2004 major-label debut, the masterful Let It Die, opened up with “Gatekeeper", a song that balanced a sweet delivery with serious subject matter. Her performance was so lovely that it’s easy to skip over the fact that she’s singing about the often fleeting nature of love. The song comes off as happy, even though its lyrics indicate otherwise. This mood was then embellished in full technicolor on the smash hit of her 2007 sophomore outing The Reminder, “1234". If the exuberance of the song wasn’t obvious enough, the brilliant music video sold it even more, with the grand choreography took the song to a whole other level. Feist’s skill at making the morose sound almost buoyant is impeccable, and it’s all owed to her deeply versatile and gorgeous voice, which has remained consistently strong in all of her musical endeavours.

On Metals, however, the elation of the aforementioned pieces is nowhere to be found. Instead, Feist seems to have a particularly noticeable case of the blues.

This is evident right from the beginning on the album’s first and best track, “The Bad in Each Other", which tonally shapes the rest of the record. Over a guitar riff that recalls outlaw country, Feist laments, “We have the same feelings / At opposite times.” The horns that once provided an exuberant climax to “1234” here supplant the dark melancholy of a relationship falling apart. The song is one of her fieriest performances. As nice as “1234” was, it’s great to see her get a little angry. “The Bad in Each Other” sets a high bar for the rest of the record and though the record overall is solid, it doesn’t quite match up to the quality of this song.

Metals, though still retaining elements of her past work in folk, is a sonic divergence from both Let It Die and The Reminder. The album is mostly low-tempo, and the blues and jazz sounds that she explored on past records (notably the title track of Let It Die) are fleshed out substantially. This isn’t “Feist made a blues album", but its disposition is certainly less sunny than its predecessors. The album is more akin to “Train Song", the haunting duet with Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard she contributed to the Dark Was the Night compilation, than the bubbly “1234".

This sonic shift is shown most effectively on tracks like “The Bad in Each Other", “The Undiscovered First", and “Comfort Me". The latter of the three, in particular, is one of the album’s strongest moments. Beginning with a lightly strummed, bluesy acoustic guitar, the song later then picks up with a stomping drum beat and a simple but effective chorus of “Na na na na na.” It’s a moment where one is likely to find himself singing along, but it’s also very haunting in a peculiar way. “Undiscovered First", along with “Graveyard", is one of the tunes on the album where Feist layers multiple vocal tracks of herself, creating a whole choir of Feists. On “Undiscovered First", the choir, alongside well-placed stomps, evokes the feeling of a church choir. In “Graveyard", she somehow manages to sound like a British children’s choir. Given that the former is one of the album’s best explorations of the blues and the latter is one of the stronger folk pieces, these choir-like effects fit perfectly. Throughout the record the music is consistently good, but it’s always Feist’s commanding vocal that’s at the forefront. Even on the album’s weakest moments, like the boring “Cicadas and Gulls", she never fails to impress.

The folksier moments are both natural continuations of her past work, but they don’t stand out as well as the blues and jazz-centric tracks. “The Circle Married the Square” has the feel of a classic folk song, its repetitive chorus bringing Donovan to mind. “Bittersweet Melodies", one of the album’s catchier moments, sounds of some of her piano-centric songs on her past outings. These moments are instead better done when she balances them with the overall tone of the album. “How Come You Never Go There", which obliquely recalls Fleetwood Mac, is a great choice for the album’s lead single, namely because it blends the folk and the blues very well. (It also helps that it’s one heck of an earworm).

After Metals has concluded its runtime, it’s quite clear that Ms. Feist is still one hell of a songwriter. The album also reveals that her strength is still in musical diversity; her powerful voice easily fits in many genres, all the while retaining the signature sound that she’s come to develop. The stylistic explorations on Metals prove that she’s not running out of any ideas, but the moments on the album that most clearly parallel her prior outings aren’t as strong as their predecessors. Though this is a fair complaint against the record, Feist’s plain talent is so good that even this album’s relative quality compared to her other records doesn’t do much to diminish her songwriting capabilities. Feist is as captivating as ever, which makes Metals a pleasure to listen to.

7
Music
Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists

If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by the quality readership of PopMatters.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Books
Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Film
Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Film

The Road to Murder in Love and War: Three Films from Claude Chabrol

The character's in Claude Chabrol's The Third Lover, Line of Demarcation, and The Champagne Murders are obsessively doubled and mirrored, reflecting and refracting their hunger for sex, love, money, and power.

Film

'Memento' Is the Movie of the Attention Economy

We are afraid of time, and so like Leonard in Memento, we kill it, compulsively and indiscriminately.

Film

What Lurks Beneath: 'Jaws' and Political Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Boris Johnson admires the Mayor in Spielberg's Jaws. Remember him? He was the guy who wouldn't close the beaches -- and sacrifice that revenue source -- during a public crisis.

Recent
Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Music

Lilly Hiatt - "Some Kind of Drug" (Singles Going Steady)

Lilly Hiatt sings about a different kind of love on "Some Kind of Drug". Hers is for a city and the impact gentrification has had its soul.

Music

There's Never Enough Time for Folk Music's James Elkington

The sometimes Wilco and Richard Thompson sideman, in-demand producer, and songwriter, James Elkington, muses on why it's taking longer than he expects to achieve more in a week than most of us get done in a lifetime.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.