Feist – Metals

“That is a well thought-out, valid objection…OVERRULED” – misremembered quote from the moderately funny flick (definitely a “flick”) My Cousin Vinny.

The new album is a distillation of things Feisty, and it must be my agitation at starting over as a temp in my late twenties, but I wanted more than dinner party music from the latest half-decade-in-making record from one of the best singers of my fan-devotion. But it’s very good. It’s…precise. That’s always been Feist’s game – each and every note is executed well. Not since CCR have I heard such exactness and fineness in recording. The notes are spaced out, but they never miss a string. It’s nice, but it’s also like seeing Howard Stern on television – it’s uncanny the way every single curl is exactly in place.

Deliberation and caring are Feist’s game. Every song here is thoughtful like an old shoe, but no more. Maybe I just need to accept Feist as a sort of Nicoish chanteuse and stop looking for the spirits of Janis Joplin and early Regina Spektor. There’s a sparse, jazzy good time to be had here if’n you didn’t know.

Certainly there’s the entirety of bluesy opener “The Bad in Each Other” (oh, that drumbeat and actually rock-ish guitar riff!) and the chorus of “Graveyard” and the end of “An Undiscovered First” to keep me company forever if need be. I might be focusing too much on the preciseness of everything, but goddamnit, is this the best to hope for? I fear it is. Little roads and couple fights and moonwatching. And I like all those things! But it’s all so precious.

And why! Like the other Feist albums it’s about an even mix (slightly on the unhappy side) between wonderful catchy songs and slow diary songs. But not the diary of an emotional, more like the diary of a happy housewife in winter. So we’re going to do this Princess Bride style. Hop the fuck on, bitch!

This is a recipe for either lasting sadness or feigned smiles. With each office job I take I see a new variety show of sad middle-aged people trading diet tips and stories about toddlers, so I can clearly not drink the wine in front of you.

But I’m not getting any younger, and unless I find success soon (and I won’t) I’ll be here for a long time, a sardonic man with roommates and a sad little job and a million sad little projects, so I can clearly not drink the wine in front of me.

But there are like six songs on this album that I don’t care about, even if I recognize them, like “Cicadas and Gulls” (watching flying things YAWN), and “Comfort Me” (nuts to that sentiment YAWN), “Bittersweet Melodies” (THAT’S what you wanted to sing about – how original YAWN), and others, all of them interchangeable slow strummy “pretty” songs. So I can clearly not drink the wine of you.

But those slow pretty songs ARE really pretty, and if I’d listened to anything else over the last few days I wouldn’t mind. It’s getting colder out, and I must say I’ve enjoyed even the boring songs while walking to work and laundry and girlfriend, so I can clearly not the drink the wine in front of me.

But even the good songs are flawed – lone rock song “The Bad In Each Other” by the aforementioned preciseness (and plodding nature), and “Graveyard” has a dull verse, like a Goo Goo Dolls song, and “An Undiscovered First” takes forever to get to the good part. The other good songs are just good, never great, so I can clearly not drink the wine in front of you.

But the chorus to “Graveyard” is awe-inspiring, and I really dig songs about arguing with your significant other (also: arguing with my significant other), and that choir at the end of “An Undiscovered First” is amazing, and “A Commotion” manages to straddle the line between sexy and having silly horns (hehe, I said straddle) and I have no clear indication that I will keep my friends and lifestyle, so I can clearly not drink the wine in front of me.

But this isn’t the way I want to be: domestic, nice, intelligent and calm, living somewhere nice like The Annex, watching the snow fall gently. So I can clearly not drink the wine in front of you.

But I can’t handle temping forever, and there’s no reason to think anyone other than my girlfriend will love my work, so I can clearly not drink the wine in front of me.

Fuck it, I’m drinking the whiskey. Stray cats and backyards and snow and such.

7/10

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Feist – The Reminder

Aw, it’s a widdle breakout album! And a really good one! Somehow, Feist has gone and really put things together, making a whole album without a single bad song. seriously, though, it’s the same idea as the other albums, but done WAY better. Everything sounds like the whisper-indie-rock she’s best at! EVERY song, in it’s own way, sounds like something you’d want to have playing while you sit with your lover on a hill overlooking the city. All the slow songs are sweet, all the faster songs are cool. It’s really rather grand: let’s have a closer looksie:

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There! Wasn’t that refreshing? I agree with myself on this one. Yes, sir, Mr. Myles, the bouncy “My Moon, My Man” is exactly the kind of nice love song our womenfolk need to sing more of, minute-long bird-chirping blah ending notwithstanding. And yes, Mr. Stocker, the strange vocal modulation on the reflective “Past in Present” does fit the subject matter nicely, and it is true that “Brandy Alexander” is one of the best lover-as-liquor songs out there. It’s also fun to clap and say “Sealion!” in private. Okay, I do it in public pretty often, too.

As I said, the slow songs are all the same, with apologetic opener “So Sorry” being the only truly memorable one. But if Feist thinks it’s okay to admit she didn’t put much effort into the last few songs on this album, then I think it’s okay to be impressed at how worthwhile they are, especially considering she didn’t say anything like that. There’s also a (just one!) generic indie rock song, a pop song about counting to four, and a Lilith Fair-ish (only good!) soft rocker called “The Limit to Your Love,” which is actually rather sad.

No, this album won’t do much to change the image of female singers as being obsessed with emotions, and the Feist on here may well enjoy watching The English Patient, but I think she’s too confident for that kind of blubber. We get to write what we want to, and gosh damn it these are song nice sentiments to share, up on that hill together, drinking red wine and absent-mindedly groping through your conversations about how you can both imagine it all stretching out forever and how 28 isn’t so old after all.

9/10

Feist – Open Season

A remix album. A remix album of Feist songs, an artist who writes quiet songs of solitude about love. I think it’s pretty fucking clear that she did not need a remix album, no, the world did not fucking need a Feist remix album.

The worst part is that all the tolerable songs are at the start – a soft, instrumental piano cover of “One Evening” and slow acoustic reimagining of “Inside + Out”. All the worse for meaning you have to then put up with thirteen progressively more embarrassing songwreckings (excluding “Tout Doucement,” which already exists elsewhere), like the Postal Service glitch-hopping up version “Mushaboom”, complete with the naive, outdated feeling that only existed post-millenium-pre-9/11. Or the impossibly laughable ruining of “When I Was A Young Girl,” with awful 80s sythns and samples. I mean, what the fuck? That’s not even counting the usual plethora of same-song-with-generic-beat-added remixes that comprise half this album. There’s FOUR terrible versions of “Mushaboom,” most of which try to hip-hop it up, with awful, awful results. Oh, and a couple of Peaches’ “Lovertits”. I don’t think I need to explain more how unnecessary this is. Feist is not going to be played in dance clubs, I don’t know why they’re pretending. If she was going to be it’ll be when she makes actual dance songs, not these half-assed “club versions” of otherwise good music.

Aside from those first couple nice songs, and the one nice repeat song, this album is to Feist what collectivization was to the Russian peasantry. It makes me feel sad and unhappy, today almost to the point of apoplexy.

2/10

Feist – Let It Die

Feisty Les is here, and brings eleven songs, half of which are covers. It’s okay though, because the bigger half are originals while the smaller half are the songs that she stole. Also, six of the songs are covers while only five are originals, which is very early 60s of her, but why these songs?

Actually, allow me to back up and say, first, “why this production?” It’s all light jazz, with fingersnaps and soft keyboards, reminiscent of old school porn music, although in a slightly different context. The problem is that shisha bar smooth synths are BAD, and indie rock is GOOD. All the worse songs are the ones where she mistakes a nice song for a chance to weird people with cheeseball throwbacks to 80s soft pop. (“One Evening,” “Leisure Suite,” and usually “Inside and Out”). The best songs are the ones that stay close to the wintry (disclaimer: it’s just cold in my living room) whispery indie singer-songwritering. “Mushaboom” is the single (TM), the whimsical, catchy one about how nice it’ll be to be married parents getting old in the country together, “When I Was A Young Girl,” the album’s only song not about relationships, a cover of what sounds like an old sailor song (“When I was a young girl / I used to seek pleasure / When I was a young girl / I used to drink ale”), and “Let It Die,” a sad, slow relationship’s end song with a nice little meditation for a chorus – “The saddest part of a broken heart / Isn’t the ending so much as the start”.

Then there’s the slow, pretty but forgettable songs (ode to tampons “Gatekeeper”, “Lonely Lonely”, and mournful “Now At Last”),the cute French cover, the likable but meh pop songs, and then it’s over and you’re pleased but underwhelmed. Her voice is still great, the songs are all pretty, but there’s very little that’s substantial.

So, here’s a fun trick: take a book of Christian, chaste dating advice, and read it aloud with your significant other while substituting “fuck” for “kiss.” It’s hilarious! “Dear Kim, I’ve never fucked a girl before, but I know my girlfriend wants me to fuck her. How do I start fucking?” Answer: Just fuck her already! And remember to relax and enjoy yourself.

Yes, it’s also much better advice.

7/10

Feist – Monarch: Lay Down Your Jeweled Head

Leslie Feist, poltergeist, I before E, except after c or when talking about popular singer Leslie Feist, as in “Leslie Feist, poltergeist.”

Well, this is a nice little debut. Ten songs of standard song length, the best of which is the opener “It’s Cool to Love Your Family”, which breaks my heart a little because I don’t particularly love mine, but heart-breaking is a good sign from a happy song. Maybe it’ll make you love your family more!

But seriously, my closest family member is my father, and we’re getting farther apart with every week that passes. Half of it is the part where he always says he’ll call me to come see me and never does, but a bigger half is this weird conservative turn he’s taken in the last few years. It seems to have started when he went to Israel and had a spiritual revelation that, apparently, Barack Obama hates Jews. Not having grown up with the internet, he lacks the necessary bullshit filter, and believes wholesale everything he reads on wacky far-right websites, so I now regularly (~twice weekly) get these uber-Republican emails with this week’s choice quotes and articles from well-known (to us savvy folk) rabble-rousing right-wing pundits like Mark “muslims breed like mosquitos” Steyn, Pamela “Islam is of the devil” Gellar, Jonah “liberal fascism” Goldberg, Dennis “I’m a decent guy with some unfortunate viewpoints” Prager, and David “Universities are nothing but liberal, anti-semitic indoctrination” Horowitz, as well as prominent conservative politicians like Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, and Benjamin Netanyahu and such. These emails all have the same unnerving Judeo-centric far-right angles: Obama hates Israel and will do anything to destroy it, Muslims are scary and will all attack us, “the media” is all left wing and hates Israel (except Fox, which is wonderful), and most importantly, vote Republican vote Republican vote Republican it’s the only way the Democrats want to exterminate Jews be afraid Hitler Hitler. Apparently, being a “real Jew” now means blindly supporting any warhawk, no matter how obscene, blindly supporting everything Israel does and any violence it inflicts without comment, and only trusting an echo chamber of far-right politicians pundits who repeat talking points endlessly and unapologetically lie to make their arguments sound better.

Worse still, because Israel shouldn’t fucking matter to anybody not named Hillel ben-Jewstein or Ahmed bin-Islamolaughs, Dad’s getting increasingly cookie-cutter conservative about everything else. Maybe it’s standard conservative aging-drift, maybe it’s from reading articles written by creationist global-warming denying homophobes day after day (even though he is none of those things). When we do talk he’s always on about how I should get a normal job and marry and raise a family and be a decent hard-working guy, which is funny considering he was a voice actor all his adult life. What’s more, but being a “decent hard-working guy,” naturally, means identifying with all the “values” of the Canadian Conservative party, and supporting them even if they have none of those values. Last time I needed a new doctor he encouraged me to get a “MALE doctor” (emphasis his). He hates unions even though he belonged to one his entire adult life (and ACTRA is one of the most vicious unions out there). Lower taxes and cut services, and to hell with people other than ourselves. We should elect only “everyday guys I’d like to have have a beer with” even though I don’t want to have a beer with a plumber from the suburbs, and never mind that any politician passing themselves off as “normal people” is a used car salesman, smiling and telling you to just trust them, everything complicated has a nice simple solution.

Okay, so it’s standard father-son conservative-liberal stuff, but it still gets on me, especially when he seemed to change so quickly. It’s like he turned 60 and suddenly became a sucker for hucksters’ slimy tricks. I used to fancy my dad a smart guy, so it’s disappointing.

The rest of the album isn’t much like it, really, with it’s driving rhythm, standard verse-structure, and radio-ready vocal hooks – but tell me you aren’t in love with the last verse all the way to that “yeah yeah!” at the end! It makes everything melt!

After that it gets less conventional, but stays a bunch of soft-rock songs, usually led by acoustic guitar or other organic instruments, making her come across as a very oblique singer-songwriter, never writing about herself directly, unless you count the fact that most of the songs are forlorn love songs set in a Princess Bride-esque world. Really, she sounds like she’s pining for the Dread Pirate Jake “The Snake” Roberts much of the time, aside from placing songs in modern contexts. I feel like this paragraph is way too all over the place, but I’m hungry so let’s keep going!

The best thing it has going for it is Feist’s voice, which carries the whole album. It’s pure and lovely and hits every note so hard the notes are sent back to the minors to work on their velocity. “The Mast,” particularly, has some heartbreakers, including some appropriate falsetto with it’s great lovelorn lyrics. Sadly, many of the songs are completely forgettable and blend into cooing mush aside from the opener and the title track. Not that they’re not nice, they’re just not exciting sexually.  However, the only bad song is “#303” with it’s terribly annoying childish vocal “hook” and musically completely ripping off of “Family.” Gah! But the others are nice, though they’re a little too backgroundy.

Most of the songs have unnecessary orchestration, which I don’t much like either. It really works on “Monarch,” where the strings play an impressive hook and carry that shit musically, but otherwise? I realize that background violins are sort of this album’s thing, but certain sounds have certain connotations in today’s post 9/11 world, and violins in this capacity sound pretentious and bombastic.

This album foreshadows her future work stylistically and features a couple great songs, but it’s not there yet. Can you believe it’d be five years until her next album? That’s a lot of handjobs! I wonder to what extent people would call me a “shock jock.” I hope only a little.

6/10