It’s a music critic cliché to claim an artist has grown every time they release a new record. So we’ll do one better and say that Feist has always had the maturity despite her traipsing the fine (and rickety) line between artistry and commercial success. You’ve known her through obvious hits like ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ and her affinity for dance numbers in music videos, and she’s known to do weirder stuff like the snail-paced 16-minute art house flick The Water. Metals sees her throwing away the former for more of her quirk-pandering self, yet every music act should know that once you make admen your bedfellows, you can’t truly leave them.
This isn’t a criticism, really. While music acts that see themselves as credible try their best to divest themselves of marketability in return for credence, music fans have long stripped themselves of the whole keep-it-real pretension. Good music is good music, and we’re glad that on Metals Feist sees fit to do something as indie flick-pleasant as ‘The Circle Married the Line’ even if the intent weren’t for commercial viability. This is not to say that the album failed to be more serious (imagine us doing the air quotes gesture here); the soaring violin on opening ‘The Bad in Each Other’, the fluttery flutes on ‘Bittersweet Melodies’, and the repetitive strings that border on operatic on ‘A Commotion’ all sound necessary to the mood of the songs rather than just superfluous production gloss.
If the sound of Metals isn’t convincing you of the album’s decidedly stark mood, the lyrics should exhibit that temperament better – the aforementioned songs all feature melancholic jaded phrasings like “morals that you find embroidered in junk shops,” and “the land and the sea are distant from me, I’m in the sky.” Gone are the pastiche-like sounds of The Reminder, and in its place is a Feist that wants to go home to her artistic upstart days. Just take a listen to ‘Anti-Pioneer’, a song she started composing as early as a decade ago, as the thesis statement of Metals. It’s minimalistic and less busy than the earlier tracks on the album and it also features possibly autobiographic content about being, well, an ‘anti-pioneer’ – which is reflective of the album’s intent; a reaction to the demands of the market.
The market is what brought her to this point though. With St. Vincent’s self-serious oddity engulfing Zooey’s increasingly gimmicky quirks, Metals could be signalling the wants of the new market instead of challenging the old market.
Still, even with the sombre feel of the album Feist maintains her whimsy like she got it stitched onto her arm. Words like ‘chickadees’ are used casually yet she never reaches Zooey Deschanel’s manic pixie dream girl level of kookiness, which is refreshing considering there’s already a sea of female singer-songwriters preoccupied with zaniness, Bambi eyes and silly voices. At 35 if you still act that way you’d probably end up being a cat lady with weird collectibles adorning your house.
For all its disinterest in courting the pop audience, Metals isn’t a difficult album to wade through. In fact wade would be the wrong choice of verb as the album is very pleasant to the ears even with all the jaded and whimsy musings on a life gone up the sh*thole.
LISTEN TO THIS: ‘Anti-Pioneer’, ‘The Circle Married the Line’, ‘A Commotion’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: Cat Power, St. Vincent, other kooky Canuck ladies armed with guitars
Get feisty at www.listentofeist.com.
1. THE BAD IN EACH OTHER
3. CAUGHT A LONG WING
4. HOW COME YOU NEVER GO THERE
5. A COMMOTION
6. THE CIRCLE MARRIED THE LINE
7. BITTERSWEET MELODIES
9. UNDISCOVERED FIRST
10. CICADAS AND GULLS
11. COMFORT ME
12. GET IT WRONG, GET IT RIGHT
13. PINE MOON