Feist - Metals
As Canadians we are constantly struggling to define what it means to “be Canadian” – what is that unique little kernel of truth that defines us as us? At a recent screening of Hard Core Logo at The Toronto International Film Festival someone, possibly Hugh Dillon, remarked that as Canadians we are defined, at least in part, by our love and dedication to our musicians. And it’s true, isn’t it? As Canadians when we love an artist they can do very little wrong and on the rare occasions when they falter we deny the misstep, or ignore it, or make excuses for it. Leslie Feist’s hotly anticipated Metals is one of those missteps.
Metals appears to represent a shift back toward the mega-successful Let it Die, rather than a continuance of the more commercial pop trajectory of Feist’s sophomore record, The Reminder. Metals is certainly a calmer record (if not a little bit snooze-y from time to time) and one more concerned with showcasing Feist’s powerful vocal ability and the truly fantastic team of musicians and producers she has managed to assemble. The first four songs are particularly strong, as the opener, ‘The Bad In Each Other’ proves to be the most stirring and honest track on the album. The advance single ‘How Come You Never Go There’ is strong as well, and beautifully highlights the potential in Feist’s songwriting, both lyrically and musically.
However, it is at this point that the album begins to fall apart. ‘A Commotion’ is an absolute betrayal to the first four songs. Gang vocals and odd musical moments come out of left field and rather than feeling like an authentic experiment it feels like a poor representation of another rather famous orchestral Canadian pop band. The rest of the album is mired by a similar inauthenticity: each songs feels like an incomplete quotation of another band or musician. ‘Cicadas and Gulls’ for example, reads like an incomplete sketch of an Iron and Wine song.
If taken as individual tracks rather than a complete album the songs from Metals are interesting and do well to showcase what is possible from Feist. As an album it is a bit of a mess. Teeming with falsehood but played, sung and produced beautifully, Metals is a disappointment in an otherwise brilliant songwriting career.
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on 2011-10-17 tosnob Said:
The ascendance of Feist into the upper echelons of Canadian musical artist on the international stage has been one of the most gratifying stories of the last few years. Now she has returned with her new studio album, Metals.
Many of those who assisted with the breakout smash The Reminder are back for this follow-up. That includes producer-arranger Chilly Gonzales, whose influence can be felt strongly once again. Also pitching in is Polaris nominee Colin Stetson who adds the brass to many of these tracks.
Those of you anticipating something catchy to capitalize on the success of "1234" will be sorely disappointed. Feist has chosen to go in the completely opposite direction, producing an album that is almost entirely devoid of pop hooks.
It's clear from the murky rhythms of the opening cut "The Bad In Each Other" that this is a very different Feist album. There's a tension that can be felt throughout the record. From time-to-time it gets let out, the pow-pow-pow punch of "A Commotion" for example, acting as a pressure relief valve.
The vocals are what oddly suffer on the album as a result. The highlight of many of Feist's songs, the delicate deliver is either absent or smothered on much of Metals. When the arrangements do abate and allow the vocals to spread, they tend to fall too far to the wayside, leaving a gaping hole. That renders songs like "How Come You Never Go There", "Pine Moon", and the glacial "Anti-Pioneer" as sparse, dare I say dull, walk throughs.
A new trick this time around is the use of multi-part chorus backing vocals. First appearing on the otherwise lacklustre "Graveyard", there's an almost childlike quality to the vocals, similar to what we heard on the Dead Man's Bones album. Feist returns to the device many times over the course of the album. When she does, it makes tracks like "Bittersweet Melodies" and "the crashing "Undiscovered First" some of the strongest and most memorable on the record.
I applaud Feist for not taking the easy road. It would have been simple, and lucrative, for her to record a pop-filled album. Instead she chose to challenge listeners and defy their expectations. Unfortunately, she's gone a bit too far in the opposite direction, stripping out much of the charm and playfulness that made her first two albums so appealing.