Feist’s records are less defined by their genre and more by the textures and intimacy of the recordings. On Leslie Feist’s latest “Metals” – a title that would otherwise indicate a rock record – there is a new heaviness that makes it feel like it’s max capacity, even on its smallest-sounding songs. It so far best defines this singer-songwriter; what it lacks in urgency from frequently lethargic tempos, it feels immediate, fluid and close.
Feist’s last “The Reminder” (2007) was made in an old mansion-turned-studio outside of Paris. She waited a couple years and then returned to making music, out of a converted barn in Big Sur. While the climates may have been different, it was the utility of space and inspiring beauty that remained a constant, and it shows. Practically every song has a one-take, happy mistake feel to it, the instruments impeccably mic’ed, familial and un-neglected.
Just start from the top: a bang of a kick drum, a bari sax and dark guitar phrases of opener “The Bad In Each Other” depicts a mood as much as the sad lyrics. Sleepy “Caught a Long Wind” puts the breeze at Feist’s back as a bird, as it leads into album single “How Come You Never Go There.” It lends no comparison to previous Feist singles like “Mushaboom” or “1234” in that it’s more of a torchy bubble-burster than bubble-gum. She does bring a little sugar, however, to “The Circle Married the Line,” a simple song with strings bobbing in pizzicato, and a xylophone and tender woodwinds filling in the gaps.
There are a handful of tracks that wed folk songs with nursery melodies, like “Bittersweet Melodies,” “Comfort Me” and “Anti-Pioneer,” the latter of which is a slow, slow, slow, slow dance with some mean guitar work in doses. The power picks up on “Commotion,” with strings uniquely holding down the rhythm section, and “The Undiscovered First,” the blue flame of which furls up into tight-fisted tambourine shimmies and the harrumphs of guitars through warm tube amps, both battling Feist’s vocal yelps and precarious harmonies. “Cicadas and Gulls” smoothes things out just as much as you’d think a song called “Cicadas and Gulls” would.
And throughout is that voice, her natural recording-ready quality, like good and bad weather moving between tracks. It is always the glue that binds this recording family with Mocky and Chilly Gonzalez into a operating whole, even in the infinity of songs like "Graveyard": "Roots and lies / our family tree is old /
From there we climb the golden hill / calmly will eternity." “Metals” sounds like something grown-into, of planned and unplanned elements that didn’t require too much discussion to manifest. After a four-year wait, it’s good news that Feist has made an album this easy to listen to.