Sticks and Stones: Feist Rests her Bones with “Metals”

“If ‘The Reminder’ is Feist’s golden child success story, then ‘Metals’ is its moodier older sister.” — “Metals” (Cherrytree/Interscope Records, 2011)

(By Kelsie Evelsizor, Staff Writer for the The Wittenberg Torch)

After a two year hiatus, Canadian songwriter Leslie Feist returns with a new album that is a much darker departure from her previous pop efforts.

“Metals” was released on Oct. 4 and is Feist’s fourth album.  This effort delves deeper into the bluesy folk that skirts around the edges of the 2007 album “The Reminder.”

You may remember the sweet and simple single “1234.”  Perhaps you heard it on an iPod commercial or on “Sesame Street.”  Sometimes it plays in department stores, and I find myself shopping with a lighter step.  This cute pop style has not been laid to rest in her new album, but “Metals” is a bit fiercer.

If “The Reminder” is Feist’s golden child success story, then “Metals” is its moodier older sister.  The lyrics are still catchy, yet there is a sophistication that might be attributed to the singer’s experience.

Feist, 35, recorded the album in a renovated barn in Big Sur, CA.  The coastal influence can especially be heard on the sixth track.  “The Circle Married the Line” is a repetitive song where she expresses a desire to “get some clarity following signs.”  The sunset is not the only place she looks to catch her breath.

The album’s title explains the heavy influence and presence of nature in the songs.  By looking at the artwork on the cover, the listener can imagine Feist actually lounging on a tree branch and listening to the birds: “Come to the hill / Got a nest to build,” she sings on the lush closer, “Get it Wrong Get it Right.”

In “Caught a Long Wind,” she seems to become the bird itself, asking, “Where will you go to stay afloat? / Feeling old until the wing unfolded.”  This album is her journey to find peace in her life by stripping everything down and reconnecting to the land.

With classes and hectic schedules, not to mention the droning club thumping music that seems to dominate the airwaves, “Metals” is a space to catch your breath.  The album takes you under its wing, and Feist croons in such a heartfelt and wide-ranging manner that you can’t help but be at ease and sway along.

But it’s not pure hippie strumming and loving.  She experiments with horns, strings, handclaps, and background vocals to create an atmospheric sound.  The songs bleed into one another, but there is enough distinction between them that this does not cause the scope of the CD to wax monotone.

Besides nature, Feist deals in heartache on songs like “Comfort Me” and “How Come You Never Go There.”  The latter is a very bluesy track that evokes the smoky vocal styling of Cat Power’s Chan Marshall.

The best track is “Cicadas and Gulls,” because it highlights Feist’s raw vocals with simple guitar picking.  She shines the brightest when superfluities are extinguished.

In this song, she sings “Maps can be poems / When you’re on your own.”  However, her poetic, melancholy songs can be studied like maps to try to figure out some of their hushed riddles.   Or they can just be heard with the same intent as they were recorded: to find solitude and stillness.

(Kelsie Evelsizor is a Staff Writer for the The Wittenberg Torch. She can be reached at s12.kevelsizor@wittenberg.edu)

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