Following a six year absence, Feist returns with new album, Pleasure in which singer/songwriter Leslie Feist delivers a collection of songs that reflects on secrets and shame, loneliness and tenderness, care and fatigue and is at its core a study on self-awareness.
‘Pleasure’ creeps in on a intimate little guitar riff but then segways into a delta blues moment. The vocal aches throughout the track. The approach makes you sit up and take notice and you realise that the journey is an intimate one. The lo-fi world continues on ‘I Wish I didn’t Miss You’. Echo and reverb are the watchwords for the guitar and vocals on a song expressing heartbreak and moving on. There is a plaintive and wistful quality to the delivery which is mirrored in the lyrics, “Tried to find a way to talk about it but I’m also of mind to just let it go”. On ‘Get Not High, Get Not Low’ you can hear the breath of the voice, the closeness of the room and the pick of the guitar. This is all the more affecting when drums and harmony lift the chorus. Feist seems to be caught in a the liminal lull, belonging to neither one world or the next and trying to make sense of it all.
‘Lost Dreams’ offers a variation on the theme “…full of answers and questions”. Moving between gentleness and anger, between clean and overdriven guitars and between the single voice and the multi-layered harmony Feist calls to mind the feeling of a seeker looking answers anywhere they can. ‘A Party’ arrives like a stumbling drunk crashing through a door. It rocks and it sways. In a inversion of the typical song structure the chorus brings the song downward and Feist’s delivery is like a younger Chrissie Hynde. You sense a cynicism about the life of the musician and the endless smoozing that goes with the lifestyle: “I’m getting tired of clowns and balloons, you’d know I’d leave any party for you”. By the end, the whole thing descends into a mass singalong before it fades out into the background of the night.
‘A Man is Not His Song’ meditates on the idea of writing and the way we can forget a song is at times a construct and a representation of a moment in time but not the time itself. It is a gorgeous song that the end has a snippet of Mastodon added in for good measure. Grungy feeling abounds on ‘The Wind’ and ‘Century’ just begs for you to dance with its mix of ethereal effects and big rhythm. ‘Baby Be Simple’ is an effective ballad that showcases Feist’s gift of conveying the pure beauty of the joy of love. At one point you think her voice will break with the emotion of it all. It is a moment that reminds you that for all the vocal histrionics so beloved of modern day vocalists that sometimes honesty is, to use a hoary cliche, the best policy.
‘I’m Not Running Away’ is blues, pure and simple. Blues is still one of the best forms for delivering a message of defiance and this song does so with some aplomb. ‘Young Up’ makes use of, but sparingly so, of organ as the vocal jumps from key to key. The drums and bass stand proud in the mix suggesting a liveliness that the machine heart of pro-tools et al just cannot capture.
Millennials may baulk at the idea of human agency but music is always most vital when you can feel the player at the core. Feist reminds us that folk does not have to mean simple and that the complexity of human emotion still has a place in the musical landscape.