Saturday, November 5, 2011

Better Late Than Never Reviews: Metals - Feist

In 2007, Leslie Feist, indie hottie extraordinaire and sometime-member of Broken Social Scene, became a solo sensation due to the impact of her single "1234," which was plastered all over TV and the Internet due to its video's Busby Berkeley-meets-American Apparel choreography. With her new album, Metals, it would seem as if she is retreating from her former "It Girl" status. However, while you probably won't hear any of the song's on her newest album gracing any iPod commercials any time soon, it should not be assumed that her latest is a dud. On the contrary, it is full of songs whose melodies will be taking up long-term residence in the listener's cranium. It just takes a little more digging and patience.

Tops on the album is "The Circle Married The Line," a spare ballad that is small in scope yet highly affecting. It features Feist, she of the quirky, cracked wail, at her vocal best. There's something about the song's chorus that just grabs you and the composition is tremendous despite consisting of simple piano, light percussion, and xylophone and brass flourishes. More complex and just as intriguing is "A Commotion," a faster-tempoed song on an album of slow burners. Starting with a pulsing piano and playful strings, it features dramatic time shifts, some very interesting vocal effects, cooing background singers, addictive drums, and an odd proclamation of "a commotion" foreshadowing a spectacular chorus. It's a bit of an oddity, but a totally enjoyable one. "Undiscovered First" also soars on reverb-filled guitar, hypnotic tambourine, and crunching bursts of kick drum.

As with an album by Bjork, another elfin-voiced singer whose album was recently reviewed on this site, a listener's enjoyment of this album will depend very much on their feelings about the artist's peculiar vocal delivery. If you are a fan of Feist's singing, there are several showcases on the album, including "Bittersweet Melodies," which incredible layered vocal harmonies, and "Anti-Pioneer," a hushed-sounding ballad that's bolstered by bluesy guitar. The singer also sounds especially wonderful on "Graveyard," which features great brass arrangements and a bit of atmospheric synth.

Metals is not without letdowns. It doesn't wrap up especially well, probably because with such a subdued instrumental approach, it is only natural that the singer would run out of tricks. "Cicadas and Gulls" features just Feist's warble and a lonely acoustic. It's beautiful yet rudimentary and limited. The same can be said for "Get It Wrong, Get It Right," a cool-down closer on an album chocked full of slow tunes. The fact is it isn't a dud because you still get to listen to Feist sing. Still, there's not much going on and it's kind of a dull way to close down the show.

Is there anything on this album that's going to take the nation by storm? Maybe not. Then again, the nation seems to be a big fan of Ke$Ha, so maybe they don't know that much. If distinctive singing and uncomplicated yet delectable compositions are your thing, then there will be plenty for you to revel in on Metals.

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