Nearly six years after the release of “Metals,” Leslie Feist is back with a sound more raw than ever. It screws with your mind a little bit when you realize how long it’s been since one of your favorite albums of all time hit your ‘lobes, especially when that was a time before you’d discovered that streaming sites existed and were too drowned in college debt to buy everything on iTunes.
Imagine then how it is for an artist whose drive is always to make music; to keep growing along with the years, to ride the wave of heartache until there’s next to nothing left, often for no profit at all.
A joyous part of being human — joyous in retrospect, at least — is the fact we’re never really short of broken pieces of heart. It’s part of the human condition, so we never really find ourselves short of emotions to tap into. There aren’t a lot of songwriters that manage to do that quite as well as Leslie Feist.
When she first broke out onto the music scene in the wave of Canadian bands and musicians — Broken Social Scene, Metric, Stars, Arcade Fire — who certainly shaped me, it was her pop-goes-indie sound and uniquely wispy vocals that helped her to stand out from the crowd.
“Mushaboom” was everywhere for a while. It was on commercials and in TV shows, as was “I Feel It All“ and later “1234,” and her unique covers of tracks a young me didn’t actually know were covers (“Brandy Alexander,” “Sealion,” “Secret Heart”) helped pave the way for an alternative soundtrack to the early 2000s.
There was never a doubt about Leslie Feist’s talent as a songwriter. There has also never been a doubt that Leslie Feist doesn’t fit into any kind of box. Many might even be surprised to find that she, at one time, shared an apartment with the (equally talented, slightly more so-off-the-rails-we-love-her) Peaches and often attended her shows with a sock-puppet that rapped along to her tunes. Me, I just wish I’d have been there.
The incredibly underrated “Metals” broke free from its preceding albums with a fresh, raw sound in 2011, and now “Pleasure” is picking up where it left off, and raw is the word that ought to always be at the forefront when describing it.
With “Let It Die” and particularly “The Reminder,“ the sound Feist went for was clean and studio-polished. “Metals” broke out of that using live open percussion recorded live in the studio and left more or less as it was, with backing vocals supplied by the Appalachian stylings of a cappella outfit Mountain Man. It was different. It was an ingenious mix. “Pleasure” follows that same lo-fi sound, showing artists and critics far and wide that a lot of the time, less is more.
Though minimalistic, “Pleasure” isn’t choppy. Its beauty is in its minimalism. In the title track, “Pleasure” and the later “I’m Not Running Away,” it has crunchy, bluesy guitars and the choral arrangements you might hear at the tail end of a night out in “Any Party” have an ethereal magic to them.
The riff of the stand out track, “Century,” has inklings of a young PJ Harvey and its lead up to a monologue of the same name, keeps Feist’s — and the album’s — theme of the passing of time as current and haunting as the harpsichord lead up to the track’s explosively sharp end.
In a similar way to how I felt after Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs,” I was as nervous to hear what else Feist had in store for us. After a record such as “Metals,” which stands out as one that validated me as an artist, a person, as a musician, it feels like a hard one to rival. With “Pleasure,” I can safely say I am far more than satisfied.
My skin has been torn off — metaphorically, don’t worry — all over again. My nerves have been exposed to the cold of the political climate we live in as well as the icy spot in my personal life I’ve somehow found myself in and “Pleasure” is, as its name suggests, the most fitting soundtrack for 2017 so far.
STAND OUT TRACKS:CENTURY, PLEASURE, I’M NOT RUNNING AWAY
RELEASE DATE: APRIL 2017