Music

Feist: The Reminder

Whether listeners take the plunge with Feist into her emotional depths is almost immaterial: The Reminder is an exceptional album that should be experienced solely on the merits its stunning musicality.


Feist

The Reminder

Label: Interscope
US Release Date: 2007-05-01
UK Release Date: 2007-04-23
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The success of Let It Die (2004) percolated over two years wherein Feist (first name, Leslie) became a one-syllable wonder for a variety of music audiences. Armed with a disarming voice, Feist sprinkled folk and pop melodies inside a vat of loungey electronica, capturing the ears of at least 400,000 listeners worldwide (that’s how many units Let It Die sold). Factoring in the P2P community, well over half a million listeners are awaiting The Reminder. The anticipation greeting the return of this beguiling chanteuse is substantial and, dear readers, Feist does not disappoint.

How the subtle charms of The Reminder unobtrusively unfold are part of this album's appeal. One is advised to experience The Reminder in solitude first, then perhaps listen with another person or two, and then again in solitude. By the third listen, the lyrics, always something of a puzzle where Feist is concerned, are less cryptic and the melodies take hold like the warm handshake of a new friend. A solid argument for extending the shelf life of the compact disc is this album's colorful, well-designed booklet, which not only contains the lyrics but a mysterious Polaroid of dice. (How Feist loves to tease!) The fact that The Reminder was recorded in less than two weeks -- in an old manor on the outskirts of Paris, no less -- only adds to the sweetness of its fragrance.

Is Feist singing to a private audience of one? It appears so to me, especially on "So Sorry", the album's hushed opening. The first sound you hear is Feist's voice, delicately purring the words, "I'm sorry/ Two words I always think/ After you're gone/ When I realize I was acting all wrong." Alone with her guitar, Feist touches on a universal truth of human relationships -- "we're slaves to our impulses". It's difficult to be rational in the heat of the moment, no matter who owes the apology. Her voice and her feelings open up as this quiet lament progresses. "We could hold each other tight tonight," she suggests in such a manner that you could forgive her anything.

That voice just happens to be one of the most remarkable features on The Reminder. Nearly three years of constant touring has made Feist an even more confident vocalist. She savors the notes. This is not necessarily an improvement, since there certainly wasn't anything unappealing about her vocal style on Let It Die, but her palette of emoting is far more variegated now. In fact, one of the most felt tunes on the album is entitled "I Feel It All". It's a joyously rollicking affair, all scratchy guitar, chimes, tambourine, and waves of rolling piano keys. "Ha!", she shouts mid-song in a spontaneous moment of liberation, "The wings are wide... Oh I'll be the one to break my heart."

Such exaltations are balanced fairly evenly across the album by moodier, introspective pieces. Feist's shimmering timbre on "The Water", for example, is positively haunting. How Feist holds the first syllable of "water" further exemplifies her vocal prowess. The dirge-like mood, which incorporates a melody by Brendan Canning, seems inspired by Hurricane Katrina, especially in regard to the lines "Pale as a pile of bones/ You hope for your babies/ And this is how they grow/ Wind-battered, knocked over." Vibes, horns, accordion, and bells gently decorate Feist's somber piano melody.

In contrast, a wry sweetness consumes the whimsical "My Moon My Man". (If you have not done so already, be sure to check the video where Feist skips about on one of those flat escalators designed to escort passengers between airport terminals.) Lyrically, it's a bit of a riddle: "My moon’s white face/ What day and what phase/ It's the calendar page again." One characteristic of Feist's songwriting is how she describes something with its polar opposite, i.e. the "truth lied" on "I Feel It All". Here, her love is the "dirtiest clean". (Thankfully, Feist keeps such word tricks to a minimum; they could quickly become cliché.)

Unlike Let It Die, which was evenly divided between original and covered material, Feist wrote or co-wrote all the songs and co-produced all the tracks on The Reminder. Actually, there are a few other people who deserve credit for the particular spell this album casts. Once again, Feist is joined by Gonzales (player of piano, organ, vibes, and drums) and Renaud Letang, who succeed in creating an album that's anything but Let It Die, Part II. Whereas Let It Die was appealingly polished and programmed, The Reminder is a bit more organic and rustic. Witness the demo-like quality of "The Park", which sounds like it was recorded in a park with birds chirping in the background. "Intuition" also contains that raw, burnished quality, replete with a "town hall" choir backing Feist towards song's end.

Dominic "Mocky" Salole, a member of that "town hall" who also co-produced "The Water", adds his deft touch to "The Limit to Your Love", adding just the right kind of instrumentation for dramatic effect. Strings elicit a sense of anticipation, like the tremors of tension between two people who've just had an argument. As she often does in her songs, Feist uses the elements as metaphors for a relationship. "Clouds part/ Just to give us a little sun," she begins, as if a couple’s stormy spar of words has subsided. Then, with a sudden shift in tone, the clouds darken as she realizes, "There's a limit to your love/ Like a waterfall in slow motion/ Like a map with no ocean." Sensing the hesitancy of her lover's commitment she declares, "I know that only I can save me." In this regard, "The Limit to Your Love" is a thematic cousin to the independent spirit of "I Feel It All", though the musical approach is quite different.

In listening to a song like "There's a Limit to Your Love", one identifies the (possible) meaning of the album's title. Feist's songs map the ebb and flow of our own emotional tributaries. She clears away the cobwebs of her personal experiences so that we may be reminded of our own. After watching the video for "1234", it's hard not to visualize Feist dressed in a blue sequin getup frolicking amidst a sea of day-glow outfitted dancers, but the lyrics actually reveal the angst of teenage love. The music may be fun and frivolous (did you know that Feist plays banjo?) but the pangs of adolescence surface between the lines. "How My Heart Behaves", Feist's closing song, is a bit more direct with its sentiments:

The cold heart will burst

If mistrusted first

And a calm heart will break

When given a shake

For an album that begins with an apology, this couplet is a fitting conclusion, for such wisdom is earned through heartbreak. Whether listeners take the plunge with Feist into her emotional depths is almost immaterial: The Reminder is an exceptional album that should be experienced solely on the merits its stunning musicality.

9

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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