Feist - Metals
Record Label: Cherrytree/Interscope
Release Date: October 4, 2011
As Leslie Feist explains in an NPR interview, she chose the title Metals because it “can be found unforged and raw and molten in the center of the earth, but they can also be highly refined and turned into little tiny jewelry.” These contrasting images capture the feel of Metals that at once feels finely honed but still holds the ability to pierce.
The first track does not ease the listener into the album. By the time the song fades out and you are part way into “Graveyard,” her presence has begun to lull you into her sphere of influence. The song finds children’s choirs at work yet again this year among indie favorites and has a strong hook. The next song captures all that Feist brings to music with its sparse instrumentation, soulful underpinnings, sweet melody and her sensual voice. The album begins to catch its hold as it leads into the first single, “How Come You Never Go There.” While it is sometimes hard to digest the words Feist sings as you are listening, the lyrics here are worth viewing on bare paper. “A Commotion” brings some mid-album fun into the mix and leads well into the excellent “The Circle Married the Line.” Her playful way with words resonates strongly, as she quietly longs for “a horizon line” and desires to “get some clarity ocean-side.” This song perfectly captures the feeling of thinking you are in a good relationship, but having that feeling of unease and lack of conviction that leads you to looking for any sign to tell you what to do.
“Bittersweet Melodies” continues this thematic trend as she remembers her relationship and “when we still could trust in our hearts.” This song answers the couple looking in the mirror singing the opening song. The album continues its trance the moment “Anti-Pioneer” begins. It lingers. Its lush build transports you to a cinematic scene. The song greeting your ears as you walk down the stairs of an all-night bar, attempting to sweet talk the bartender for a bottle of wine and two glasses to continue your evening with a person you just met on the train, while you were travelling alone to momentarily forget your situation (okay, it reminded me a lot of Before Sunrise). Feist gives you a moment to catch up with her before “Undiscovered First” sets in motion. The give and take of the music with her voice provides a waltz for your ears. This song shines with strong production values and creates a marvelous mix that conjures up that iconic opening scene of the chain gang singing for freedom and a better time in O Brother, Where Art Thou? The next track finds Feist longing for the warmth that "Cicadas and Gulls" represents as her Canadian origin finds the ocean and warmth frequently lacking. The narrator in “I’m Actual” by The Format is conjured up in “Comfort Me,” as the singer longs just to be heard and to feel wanted.
Gearing up for finals, I had a friend end her email with two words, “Do well.” It felt like a command, like our friendship demanded I heed her request. Feist closes with three simple words that feels like a command as well, though more inward looking, hoping in some small way this part of her journey is over. “When does it ever end well?” states Feist in an interview question of ending romance. As “Get It Wrong, Get It Right” closes quietly, you get a sense she is moving along well, though she is hoping a new path leading to a new vista is about to open up.
Feist’s voice is so transcendent that that the words are hard to pay attention to. It elicits Sigur Ros, yet since most of the time they are not even speaking a real language, you just let the music wash over you. This can make for a hard album to listen to as the words hold so much of the key. This album will sit comfortably with Feist fans, as long-time producers Chilly Gonzales and Mocky find their way on the soundboard again and create a sonically arresting album. The more I have listened to this album, the more I believe it is a concept album. The album reflects on those times in relationships where each half is wondering if they should continue together or go their separate ways. While these conversations are never easy, often times they are necessary and essential to future relationships (and perhaps the current one). This album can be hard to listen to at moments for its intense subject matter, but like those conversations, an open and honest position and persistence will reward those who commit to the journey.