I first ran into Leslie Feist's work upon the release of the Feistodon split 7" on Record Store Day 2012 (Fiest covering "Black Tongue" by Mastodon and Mastodon covering "A Commotion" by Feist). I was immediately taken by Feist's fresh and interesting take on a song I am quite fond of. It just made me want to check out her original work.
And here I am.
The first thing I notice are Feist's vocals. She reminds me greatly of a seasoned jazz singer, but she has a much wider range of ideas that she incorporates into her vocal performances than an average jazz singer. She incorporates some folk stylings in certain preformances ("When I Was a Young Girl"), and even some slow funk which produces one of the most memorable vocal lines on the album ("One Evening"). She is able to create great emotion in her voice while maintaining that jazzy subtlety that she has clearly mastered. I can really feel the somber heartache on "Now at Last", and that playful innocence on "Secret Heart". And more into the subtlety of the vocals, harmonization adds even more interest when it is incorporated. "Leisure Suite" and "Gatekeeper" are better for their incorporation of backing vocals. She also has a nice range, and it doesn't sound strained when she reaches the heights of that range. Overall the vocals on this album are fresh and interesting, while maintaining a good relationship with their influences.
But I can't discount the instrumental side of Feist's music. I immediately think of the fusion of a wide range of influences that made Steely Dan great. I get a lot of jazz, some funk, folk, and a little r&b. On top of the standards of guitar, bass, piano, and drums, the wind and string arrangements that are added add a different dimension to Feist's songs. The most prominent use of wind and strings appear on "Let It Die" and "Leisure Suite", and these songs are all the better for it. Another quite interesting aspect of the instrumental side of things is the use of campy late 70's funk keyboards. It dates the music ironically in a way that makes it seem fresh and new, while piled on top of all the other elements to the Feist sound. In the end, it is the fusion of influences that makes this album stand out, as well as the wide range of instruments incorporated into the musical arrangements.
Overall this album is one of subtleties, in both instrumentation and vocal performance. An enjoyable listen all around.
Standout Tracks - "One Evening", "Gatekeeper", "Inside and Out"