Beauty exists in many forms in our society. We are frequently bombarded by media that is designed to inspire within us one specific reaction. Although any piece of art that fails to inspire any response whatsoever is arguably a waste of time, too frequently we are told how to respond to a piece of art. It is too often that we hear a song that crams its sadness down our throats, for example, to the extent that we cannot listen to this song without feeling this reaction. Although this bludgeoning may be useful in short exposures to convey simple emotions, this style of media is helpless in any attempt to express anything deeper. For instance, while Randy Randall and Dean Spunt of No Age can draw out your inner 17 year old punk and make you do your best to resist banging your head in less than a minute with their high powered vibes, can any three minute song truly force you to be in awe?
Thus, it requires something more special to be truly beautiful. True beauty is not something that can be shoved in your face. It may not even be something that is immediately evident. Ladies and gentlemen, let me present Feist. On her fifth full length Metals, we witness a subtle beauty, one that feels no need to flaunt itself.
Feist has been recording for more than 12 years now. After a few years spent bouncing around Canada covering old Bee Gee’s tracks, the Canadian singer-songwriter started releasing her own material. As early as 2004, Feist was releasing tasty music videos, something that, to this day, she continues to do. A cute cover of fellow-Canadian Ron Sexsmith’s Secret Heart earned Feist fair amounts of attention. Apple picked up on the first single off of her 2008 release The Reminder, and before anyone blinked 1 2 3 4 was officially “that iPod commercial song.”
Before I can say anything about her latest album, Metals, I must pay homage to this singer’s voice. Feist has perhaps the single most recognizable voice of any contemporary female singer. Her vocals effortlessly rise and fall with minimal accompaniment. She coyly teases you into The Circle Married the Line, while she knocks you back in your seat with a stunning performance on How Come You Never Go There. Her voice approaches and falls back into the instrumentation like a constantly shifting tide; you only need to feel the gentle foam rolling up the beach to know there is a powerful ocean behind it. However, with such a delicate vocal performance, Feist sounds best when the music drives the song; the strong instrumentation pushes Graveyard forward, one of Feist’s best songs to date. Although Feist loves to tug you through her songs with her voice alone, she does not acheive the same success of Get it Wrong, Get it Right and Cicadas and Gulls on each attempt. Feist is at her most vulnerable when she leads the music with her vocals alone. Bittersweet Melodies, altough beautiful, could use a bit of a kick in the pants to drive it forward. You could also find her guilty of lilting a bit too much on Anti-Pioneer as well.
However, what I love most about Metals is that no song feels like a throw-out. All 50 minutes of the record are well conceieved and laid out beautifully in front of us. To return to what I was discussing earlier, Feist does not overemphasize the beauty of her work. She lures you into each song, encouraging you find your own emotion between soothing organic instruments and stunning vocals. Having a totally unique experience with each track is an experience not many artists can provide. While her lilting vocals may lose you at first, the imperfections are just too beautiful to complain about. Sometimes thirlling, occasionally boring, but always gorgeous, Metals is well worth your listen.