Review Summary: Gently pleasing enough to host a dinner party to, and rich and rewarding enough to listen to solo with the morning after dishes.
After The Reminder's release, much was made of the use of '1234' in an Apple ad, which I found puzzling. One connection I could make is that as is often said about Apple products, the record just works. There's a ramshackle, organic spontaneity to it, which balances out all the love and care that went into perfecting these songs.
'I feel it all' is a masterclass in indie pop songwriting and arrangement - opening so strongly with scrappy guitar strumming, then falling away into strident drums with so much space for the vocals. Tiny flourishes of bell-like sound, warm guitar swirls, and later bubbling piano swells. The bridge changes the exuberant feel of the song, moving through a passage of memories and obstacles to the fitting climax of decisiveness.
All of the songs work on their own, but have a certain cohesiveness - some feel like vignettes about key moments in a relationship, some feel like the post-mortem. Lyrical content can seem immediate, like on the cool piano romp of 'My moon my man', and switch up to examining regret and our perception of our memories, like on the brilliant twisting 'Intuition'. This track seems to be the emotional centerpiece of the album, a loose acoustic song that adds somber horns as support to the gathering of thoughts between the verses, finishing with unexpected choral backing on an otherwise stark 2:00 a.m. rumination on doubt and significance. Feist's warm voice is sometimes fragile, like she's singing into resistance, but imbued with the depth to overcome it. Nothing is out of place, and you'll be surprised on how concise it is, while taking you so far.
There's so much variety here - the hand clap gospel of Nina Simone cover 'Sealion', the playful light jazz balladry of 'So Sorry', the sweeping light rock of 'Past In Present'. '1234' runs with jaunty banjo inflected marching band swing. It's fantastic just as a single, but also ties back to the album themes of how we look at the past and the bittersweet nature of young love. 'Brandy Alexander' is peppered with finger snaps and spare bass percussion to keep the beat to this wry little song - picture a smoky lounge, an accompanist, and the club singer ruing that we cannot choose who we love.
The Reminder is an easy album to love on the surface - the songs are expertly sculpted and accessible, the voice is beautiful, the arrangement is tasteful, and the production is restrained. There's depth here too, the feeling of looking through that shoe box of old photos, or running through those stories from the past to check - could we have done better? Could we have expected more from others? What should we let go? Have we learnt anything?