Feist's inevitable breakthrough
The Reminder is a soundtrack for watching your lover walk out the door. From misty-eyed paralysis to teenage triumph, Feist’s songs are cast in the alternately hesitant and confident, adrenaline-soaked moments of clarity that strike when your flame leaves you for the first or last time. What makes The Reminder (Cherry Tree/Interscope) such a subtle and consistent delight is that Feist is constantly in tune with the mix of universality and intimacy inherent in these moments. She writes great pop songs because she knows life is a series of great pop songs.
UNDOING THE KNOT: Feist lets go.
While Feist has always had the chops of a star, until now it was easy to question whether she could come into her own as a solo artist. The Calgary-bred chanteuse cut her teeth in punk bands as a teenager and first gained notoriety as part of the crass avant-pop group Peaches. Feist later moved to Toronto and became a member of Broken Social Scene, an indie-rock collective who became perhaps the first great success story of the hype-machine music blog era months after the release of their second album, 2002’s You Forgot It In People.
The artist’s shambling, excess-friendly upbringing made her breakthrough solo album, 2004’s Let It Die, a minor surprise. An easy-going mix of bossa nova and torch songs, the album’s early suggestions of mass appeal (the sultry intro “Gatekeeper” and the galloping pop gem “Mushaboom”) ultimately buckled under the weight of interesting but overly cautious covers that comprised half of the album. The adult-contemporary flourishes of the covers felt belabored, considering Feist’s only notoriety was as an indie starlet, but the sharp and plainspoken heartache of her original songs warranted repeat listens.
The Reminder repeats Let It Die’s pace and formula, but it’s more emotive and comfortable at every turn. The languorous bossa nova thrum of “So Sorry” is a beautiful slow boil, beginning as a showcase of Feist’s compelling voice — ethereal yet quavering, she’s the rare vocalist who’s both commanding and unforced — but a gradual hum of background vocals and windswept xylophone give the track’s refrain a sad, engaging weight. Similarly, chirping birds and a mournful trumpet loan the slightest orchestral gravity to “The Park.”
The ballads here are wonderfully calibrated. The natural intimacy and first-person reflections of Feist’s lyrics yield sentiments that consistently toe the line between being personal and wholly tangible. “So Sorry” establishes a setting with “I’m sorry, two words/I always think after you’re gone/When I realize I was acting all wrong” and then reels the listener in with lovely, plaintive musings: “We’re so helpless/We’re slaves to our own forces/We’re afraid of our emotions/And no one knows where the shore is/We’re divided by the ocean.” Only “The Water” departs from this formula, a moody lounge ballad too heavy on metaphor to make a mark.
Feist bridges her torch songs and pop tracks with offbeat experimental numbers. “Sea Lion Woman” is a thrilling Nina Simone cover that begins with tribal handclaps and scatty vocals, climaxing in a surprise electric guitar solo that segues to one of The Reminder’s four effervescent future singles. The best of those is “1 2 3 4,” an infectious kitchen-sink ditty that ends with a celebratory horn breakdown, an explicit reminder of how thoroughly classic Burt Bacharach arrangements inform Feist’s sensibilities. Also adding to the unlikely influences is first single “My Moon My Man,” whose breathy chorus and free-associative lyrics are reminiscent of a more playful Sade.
: Music Features
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