It was not too long ago when the media buzz increased surrounding the upcoming release of a new album by Leslie Feist, and it certainly prompted me to rediscover her 2011 album, ‘Metals’ (see review here). After such a lengthy absence, I was eager for new material from Feist, and had fingers crossed that the new ‘Pleasure’ album would retain the same indie vibe that made ‘Metals’ so enjoyable for me. With the first cut being released prior to the album becoming available, I was fortunate to hear the track “Pleasure” on satellite radio. Imagine my feeling of joy upon that first listen. The song evoked a sense of satisfaction with the realization that this was a bona-fide indie track as opposed to a more commercial, mainstream sound.
Picking up a copy of the new album during our most recent trip to Southern Ontario, I spent a few days this week listening to the album almost non-stop during the daily grind to and from work. Like any Feist album, you simply cannot absorb it all in one listening. It needed several spins to both fully appreciate the new tracks, and to pick up on some of those quirky nuances that Feist loves to incorporate into her music. I will devote some time to these ‘quirks’ later.
For me, ‘Pleasure’ leans much more towards being a natural successor to ‘Metals’, and there are certainly subtle similarities across the album. The tracks “I’m not running away” and “Century” offer up such similarities, with the latter in particular sharing a strong resemblance to “A Commotion” in both sound and style. And then, just like that, Feist throws the listener completely off balance with the ‘vocal ending’ that asks “Century. How long is that?” (not to be picky here, but the number of days in a century is understated, as they completely forgot to factor in ‘leap years’, but hey, it’s just a song, right?)
The opening track and first single certainly does enough to generate the excitement of this new release. I recall how critics bashed ‘Metals’ for its unfriendliness towards ‘radio hits’, but I still stand behind my arguments that there were several cuts that were radio worthy (just because something is not 3 minutes long and has pretty rhyming lyrics does not a bad single make).
If I were in a position of being able to suggest which track from ‘Pleasure’ should be considered as such a track, my first choice would probably be “A man is not his song”. With Feist’s voice being the focal point of the intro, a steady acoustic beat plays discreetly in the background. The tune builds beautifully in both depth and sound, before ultimately adding multiple backing vocals and an R&B riff. And just when you think you have it figured out, the song closes to the guitars of US heavy metal rockers, Mastodon. To summarize: strong vocal delivery, discreet acoustic beats, inclusion of a mini choir, some R&B, and then some guitar shredding to close. So fresh, yet so ‘Feist’, and so distinctively and naturally pulled off to perfection.
And then there are those quirky oddities that appear across the album. Some are obvious, and others take several listens to fully discover. Little things, like the vocal effects during the line “you sent in spiders to fight for you” from the second track, “I wish I didn’t miss you”. The aforementioned addition of Mastodon at the close of “A man is not his song” is another fine example. However, for me, the definitive ‘oddity’ is found during the closing moments of “Any party”. After informing the listener time and time again that she’d “leave any party for you”, Feist does just that: background chatter (you are at the party now), closing door, footsteps down the sidewalk, barking dogs, train horns in the distance, a car cruising by (ironically, with ‘Pleasure’ blasting from the speakers), and then crickets…..nothing but crickets. Quirkiness quotient achieved in 20 seconds, and a delight to experience. As the next track (“A man is not his song”) commences, the crickets remain, and do so through the first verse until scared away by the dominance of the bass line. Pure genius, all of it, and I would expect nothing less from Feist.
The album ‘Pleasure’ lives up to, and beyond its descriptive title. If you are new to the material of Feist, this is a great place to start if your tastes lean more towards indie-rock that combines great vocals, great lyrics, and those wonderful quirks that are her signature. If this sounds too demanding, maybe revisit older albums that were a little more commercial, or simply look elsewhere if you are seeking 3 minute pop songs with nice rhyming lyrics. For me, both ‘Metals’ and ‘Pleasure’ will be my go-to albums for this artist.