Saturday, September 15

Rethinking the New Feist

Someone once told me that an album being criticized for some reason or another doesn’t need to be defended. Rather, it needs to be praised independent of what existing conceptions of the album are. I’m not totally sure I agree with that. And since I’m the only one I know that really loves The Reminder, I thought I’d put that disagreement into play.

Why the new Feist album is better than you think:

1. The overall coherence of the album. My main problem with Let It Die was that it felt disjointed, probably due to the number of cover songs and the amount of genre-hopping involved. The Reminder, however, is anything but disjointed; it sounds exactly like it should, a set of songs written by the same person with a vision. It just so happens that her vision leans toward adult-contemporary. Even the punchier songs like “I Feel It All” and “My Moon My Man” share the same aesthetic as the rest of the album, embracing the same simple production and instrumentation. The same structuring is at work in both the rocking “Sea Lion Woman” and the subdued “Honey Honey”. This coherence actually makes this album feel like a Feist album. This look at Feist may not yield what some expected, but it’s a picture more complete than any we’ve seen yet.

2. The choir on “Intuition”. The first time you hear it, it sounds a bit awkward and out of time. But then you see the point: the choir is a multitude of voices expressing the same thing Feist is throughout the song. It’s the idea that regret and doubt is everywhere, that everyone struggles with those nagging what ifs. This is a prime example of a song extending beyond itself, a moment where the fact that you’re listening to music is almost forgotten in lieu of feeling at one with this choir, this microcosm of an imperfect and regretful population. It’s far from upbeat, but a sentiment that universal (and so beautifully expressed) doesn’t need to be.

3. “One Two Three Four”. So one of the best songs on the album isn’t actually written by Feist, but by the girl behind New Buffalo; I can understand why people have a problem with that. But then I heard the most recent New Buffalo album and, after a couple listens, realized how totally unmemorable it is. So either New Buffalo gave Feist her very best song, or Feist took something kind of boring and made it totally awesome. I doubt that it’s the former. She made “One Two Three Four” her own… in my mind, it doesn’t matter who wrote it, it’s Feist who made it the monster track that it is.

4. Feist’s acoustic tone. Does anyone else think the way her acoustic guitar sounds is totally awesome? It’s something I always notice when listening to the album.

5. Vocal improvisation.In a world where melodies seem to stagnate left and right, it seems like Feist has too many for her own good. It seems as if she’s not content to sing the same thing twice, almost always adding to or changing her parts. And it doesn’t sound like those carefully calculated key changes in pop music today—it sounds like she actually improvised the parts while recording them, and her tendency to do that same thing live affirms that. Some wonderful moments arise because of that; check out 1:56 through “So Sorry”, 3:00 through “I Feel It All”, or 1:04 through “Honey Honey”.

6. A sense of honesty. It’s clear from the lyrics of this album (as well as in the decision to make music the way she does) that Feist isn’t trying to hide anything. The songs are filled with regret, self-deprecation, and sad ruminations. Just look at the last few lines of “The Park” or the bittersweet breakdown of “One Two Three Four”. This is Feist more brutally honest than we’ve ever seen her and the nakedness of her soul on this album is pretty powerful.

Feist - Honey Honey [mp3]
Feist - Intuition [mp3]
Feist - One Two Three Four [mp3]

- Dominick Duhamel -

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At 10:51 PM , Anonymous matthew Lindsay said...

Oh no you didn't. At first I thought you were actually going to rethink your thoughts on Feist, but instead you were just prompting me to. And I will not.

At 12:34 AM , Blogger Paper Stereo said...

but let me ask you this... won't you?


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