Review Summary: Fearlessly mellow and just as catchy, The Reminder is Feist’s best and most assured release to date.
Leslie Feist merely helped the kids out of their coats (…but wait, the babies haven’t been born!), and she was a hit.
Well, sort of. While far from reaching commercial success, Feist has become some
sort of success, selling 400,000 albums of her sophomore effort, Let It Die
, worldwide, a little over 100,000 being in the US (though she’s probably more likely to be remembered for being in indie favorite Broken Social Scene). This small fortune for Feist has caused some considerable feedback to the release of her latest album, and for good reason. She’s a persistent force that is gaining momentum in her set genre and has always remained assured and confident, blending the comfortable sounds of other great artists (among them the likes of Bjork, Fiona Apple and Jenny Lewis, respectively) while creating her own sound. Like Rilo Kiley before her, Feist merely expands upon her past albums without trying to make her sound bigger (but in actuality, that’s what she does) or trying to bring in a new crowd. This is what has made her always appealing, and what ultimately drives The Reminder
, Feist’s most pop-oriented and focused album to date, following on the heels and blending in parts of debut album Monarch
and Let It Die
Like Let It Die
before it, The Reminder
begins on a quiet, warming note: ‘So Sorry,’ an acoustic but vocally driven track that settles the album in comfortably. Mostly unappealing (in placement than in actual musicianship) to those expecting a pick-up, ‘So Sorry’ merely chugs along as patient as its protagonist who finds herself the fault of a failed relationship. This is pure Feist, comfortable in her element and toying with the idea of pulling her listeners through a retread of her sophomore album. And in pure Feist form, she follows this simple introduction with one of the catchiest songs off the album, but this time, she spins this simple execution on its head: where her past albums were thoroughly mellow efforts, The Reminder
picks up the pace quickly and doesn’t dare let go, even when the music slows.
‘I Feel It All’ is Feist’s first purely pop endeavor, soft around the edges and just as intangibly catchy, much like the dance-track claps of ‘Sea Lion Woman,’ or ‘1234’ that blends her prominent acoustic and affected vocals with rising violins and intermingled group vocals that add depth to an otherwise breezy reminder of how striking Feist can get. Her vocals, here most of all, is largely understated and usually sounds a bit muted, breaking through amongst inflections and powerful high notes while her vibrato mingles lovingly with the folk-rock, electronica and ballads. All of this, of course, wouldn’t be so touching if it weren’t for Feist’s thoughtful poetic imagery, and it’s here that Feist digs deeper than she has on previous albums. On the pulsating ‘My Moon My Man,’ she simply makes allusions to her 'man as a moon' in a single, effortless bound (“My moon, my man's a changeable land; such a loveable land to me
”). But usually she goes for a more subtle approach, from serene metaphors (“The harbor becomes the sea, and light in the house keeps it collision free
”) or blisteringly catchy (“It’s a volcano! It’s a volcano!
”). This craft for storytelling is what keeps The Reminder
firmly planted to the floor, growing amongst the shaded pianos of ‘Brandy Alexander’ (Feist lends some of her best vocals here) and the stripped bare acoustics of ‘Intuition.’
What really makes The Reminder
standout is that, while more focused than her past albums, Feist seems to be at her most diverse here. ‘Honey Honey,’ electronically, resembles The Knife’s line-up, a persistent electronic beat penetrating the flowing melodies, while her use of pianos here is decidedly more bare and flavored than the cabaret styling of Let It Die
. And the aforementioned ‘I Feel It All’ and ‘1234’ stand out as Feist at her peppiest, strutting along in the stylized melodies set for radio-play. Some may call this conforming (this certainly sounds more mainstream than Let It Die
or the rugged, amateurish Monarch
), but Feist lets it slide with unabashed ease; really, she’s just maturing, building upon her sound while exploring others, never daring to step outside of a range she knows she can’t reach. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t dare to experiment: album closer ‘How My Heart Behaves’ stands as The Reminder
’s (and possibly Feist’s) best track, a layered ballad that tinkles and bounds around in determined vocals, layered amongst a male harmony and Feist’s own, as heartbroken as Feist has sounded since ‘Lonely Lonely’ (“A cold heart will burst if mistrusted first; a calm heart will break when given a shake,
” she sings, wavering), and ends the album as best she possibly could, as opposed to the calm cabaret ballad of Let It Die
. This change in Feist musically offsets her matured imagery in an album that permeates with her used stories of love, heartbreak, betrayal and forgiveness, but hell if she doesn’t make it sound fresh.
If the album stops short of being more than excellent, it’s the forgivable containment most of it feels; although Feist has obviously expanded, she still pulls her punches. This doesn’t detract from the album’s satisfaction, and it might even be part of its charm. A possible grower by year’s end, The Reminder
is easily Feist’s most assured work to date, and a charmingly assured one at that.