Star rating: 3.5 out of 5
The old clich? is “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Many artists are weary of changing their sound because they are afraid of losing their audience. But like the daring few, singer/songwriter Leslie Feist believes just because something is crocheted into a pillow does not mean it is true.
The Canadian chanteuse has gained the support of the public, commercial world and critics during her tenure in the business so far. But her new album, Metals, branches off into new indie pop territory.
While contemporaries Florence + the Machine and Adele cranked out four albums cumulatively in the past two years, Metals is Feist’s first record since 2007’s The Reminder. The album received warm critical and public reception, producing hits like “My Moon My Man” and “1234.”
It garnered four Grammy nominations, and Apple featured the music video for “1234” in a commercial for the iPod Nano. The ad brought her diverse sound and catchy hooks to the forefront of popular culture. However, the Patti Smith look-alike’s new album sports a less commercial, earthier sound.
The lyrics from “1234” best describe the current direction of Feist’s music career: “Oh, you’re changing your heart/ Oh, you know who you are.” When listening, one can tell Feist is following her instincts every step of the way during the creative process.
Moodier and darker than her past pop endeavors, Metals has a wide range of both instrumental and vocal intensities. The album’s first single, “How Come you Never Go There,” is a perfect example of the singer’s new sound. While some of the musical vibes are different, the lyrics maintain their extreme catchiness.
She also uses her signature trait throughout the record, weaving her whispery tone through a resonating backup chorus, this time made up of “whoas.” While it harbors her “chill” sound, Metals has a certain hint of melancholy ennui that haunts many of the tracks, notably the song “Graveyard.”
However, with all the changes to her sound, one thing Feist has not shed is her commercial sensibility. The wispy and string-driven “Caught a Long Wind” sounds like something that should be echoing off the walls of Urban Outfitters.
The album also hosts louder and more driving songs like “A Commotion” and “Anti Pioneer.” Featuring a cappella-like backup singing, the songs have an added layer of vocal and instrumental texture that draws in the listener.
“Cicadas and Gulls” showcases Feist’s bold singing capabilities, but the lyrics seem like content filler illustrations: “Cicadas and gulls/ They scrape on the hull/ The land and the sea/ They’re distant from me.” Conversely, perhaps the best track on Metals is the hauntingly beautiful “Get it Wrong, Get it Right,” during which Feist sings in her most ethereal and pure tone to date.
While Metals hosts some gems, none are as fun or upbeat as tunes from The Reminder. This is not to say that the tracks on her newest effort are not solid pieces. However, when listened to in succession, they do tend to blend together due to their similar sullen tones. A few are worth purchasing on iTunes, and all are at least worth a listen on YouTube.
Get into the mood for new Feist music with this video of the Metals’ single “How Come You Never Go There” and peek back at The Badger Herald’s 2010 review of Feist’s documentary “Look At What the Light Did Now.”