Look, I’m just going to get this off my chest right off the bat: I didn’t like The Reminder that much. Compared to the Feist that I had grown to love, the one who was complemented so stunningly by a delicate layer of fuzz (such as during all of Let It Die), and the gloss and gleam of The Reminder just didn’t quite work for me. I don’t really mind the record, but it just didn’t speak to me in the same way as its predecessor.
But Leslie Feist is one of the few singers in recent memory who has seemed to appear fully-realized right off the bat, and with every record has stretched out just a little bit more each time. She is a hero of mine, and likely the voice that launched a thousand soundalikes peppering the airwaves of your local radio station and grocery store (Yael Naim and Sara Bareilles, for instance sound as though someone were asked to “sing like Leslie Feist”), and she has accomplished all of this by being such a powerful singer, even if she wouldn’t woo the X-Factor judges. What makes any Feist record distinguishable is how she fluffs the downy cushion that her slightly world-worn pipes fall upon after they leave her mouth.
What is immediately noticeable here on Metals, album number four for our songstress, is that she has reverted back to what I enjoyed most about Let It Die: it feels somewhat worn, and her voice has a strange effect where it feels like it’s cutting through whatever is put behind it. “The Bad In Each Other” starts with a stomping drumbeat and ends up feeling like it could have been a Fleet Foxes outtake in another life, only without Robin Pecknold’s otherworldly howl. It’s a fairly gritty start to the record, yet doesn’t forget to include one of Feist’s strongest abilities: she knows how to make a gorgeous, swooning chorus.
It feels like there’s a layer of dirt caked onto most every surface on Metals, and it works out for the best in every way. It’s an interesting turn, after the gleam and sheen of The Reminder, but it suits the record perfectly. You get a sense in places all over the album that, in the space between the last record and Metals, that something inside her may have corroded and died, because all of the teenage hopes she sang about on “1234” seem to have gone away. That place has been replaced by something that feels a bit more real, which shows when she tells her lover, “When you comfort me / It doesn’t comfort me, actually,” later in the record on “Comfort Me.” It’s also the place that leads to the pained croon of “Caught A Long Wind,” when she opines that “I got to know the sky, but it didn’t know me.” It feels like she’s gotten somewhere close to Walkmen territory, but born out of a history of affected women, rather than drunken men.
The cover of Metals shows a dead and likely rotting tree sticking out of barren earth, next to a sickly river. Grim imagery aside, the cover of the album calls out to a more earthly sound for the singer, feeling more grounded and assured than ever. She’s come a long way since Monarch over a decade ago, and even though her sound has gone backwards, she is now sounds more confident than she ever has, and her continued progress as an artist is always a pleasant surprise.