In a sea of quirky, one-of-a-kind singers, Feist was always something different, wasn’t she? She wasn’t look at me I’m kooky like Florence, didn’t ape Kate Bush, was never the emotional mess that was Chan Marshall (praise the lord for that one) and, unafraid of a big number dance routine, she wasn’t as po-faced or angsty as the rest. No, Leslie Feist has always been more difficult to pigeon-hole.
Let’s get one thing straight: if you’re picking up this album and thinking “Wow, Feist. I loved that iTunes ad!” you might wanna reconsider your purchase. Lovers of ‘1, 2, 3, 4’, the dance routine and the ad which “made Feist famous” will find Metals a snoozefest. Why? This is not music for the next IKEA ad, there’s nothing here that can be easily packaged and sexed up as a Big Hit Single but, given the quality of what is here, who needs instant gratification?
Never fear, what Metals lacks in happy-go-lucky exuberance, it more than makes up for in intimacy and subtlety. The melancholic ‘Graveyard’, with its eerie-but-catchy call to “bring them all back to life”, is a case in point. It may be an unlikely subject matter but, like the whole album, it’s a grower. A slow, persistent but irresistible grower. Opening track ‘The Bad in Each Other’ laments a couple mutually pressing the Self Destruct button, and, given the lyrical content of the album as a whole, “Bittersweet Melodies”, the stand out track here, could’ve been the album’s less ambiguous title.
Sounding like it was recorded in a cosy cabin, surrounded by snow, (despite being recorded in sunny California) the production is often rustic, rough ‘n ready and, if it wasn’t so perfectly crafted, it could pass for a first album not a fourth. But this only adds to its charm. Lyrics like “How come I’m so alone there?” sum up the atmosphere and the vocals are flawless, charming, almost smoky, the perfect mix of silk and steel. From the bluesy balladry of ‘Anti-Pioneer’ to the folkish strainings and strings on ‘Caught a Long Wind’, make no mistake: this album is all sorts of wonderful.
If you’re still unconvinced of Feist’s understated brilliance and crave some hard proof, Metals is all the evidence you need. For a lyrical synopsis of the record, look no further than this: “When you comfort me, it doesn’t bring me comfort actually.” Welcome to the harder side of Feist.