Release Date: Apr 28, 2017
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
So this is what we get after six years away. Juno Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist's long-awaited fifth LP Pleasure continues the trend of 2011's Metals, heading in an even more esoteric direction than her smash hit record The Reminder. Mostly recorded live in studio, this latest offering is a cagey and defiant record that is admirable for its obstinacy.
Recently, Leslie Feist had to reconsider her relationship to music. It's easy to understand why: Feist has been performing since age 15, first in Canadian punk bands and later in indie powerhouse Broken Social Scene. At the turn of the century, she began releasing solo albums, which resulted in four efforts -- 1999's Monarch, 2004's Let it Die, 2007's The Reminder and 2011's Metals.
Over the course of their careers, many artists tend to polish up their sound as their profiles get bigger, opting for larger budgets and more resources to better recreate their internal visions. In that case, Leslie Feist is working backward to achieve the same goal: Years removed from slick mega-hits "1234," "My Moon My Man" and "I Feel It All," Feist has moved onto a complex and lo-fi record with ample rewards to those who dive in. Pleasure marks a step toward the folk leanings that dominated 2012 Polaris Prize-winning Metals while simultaneously serving as her most experimental album yet.
That wasn't in terms of the write-ups it received - an average of 81 on Metacritic is testament to that - but more to do with how much attention it seemed to attract when set against its predecessor, 2007's The Reminder. Granted, Metals didn't have a single that hit it big in an iPod (remember them) advertisement like "1234" did and, granted, it wasn't the most immediately accessible listen by any stretch of the imagination. But it was totally sumptuous, rich and deep and thoughtfully constructed.
In the conveyor-belt, clickbait-swamped circus that is the new music media, taking a break is a dangerous thing. Off the back of her major breakthrough The Reminder in 2007 and its 2011 higher-charting follow up, Metals, there has been a six year period of relative silence from Calgary's Leslie Feist. If she had any anxiety about her enduring place in listener's hearts, she certainly hasn't let it take control of Pleasure: this is not a triumphant, star-spangled, chartbusting comeback, but a nuanced, veiled, sophisticated expression, perhaps her most complete and personal project to date.
It's now completely clear that Leslie Feist has no intention on dining out on '1234' for the rest of her career. If anything, she seems keen to put distance between herself and her breakout single. Letting a full four years pass before delivering a follow up, 2011's Metals was an album of monochrome arrangements; shunning any reasonable chance of commercial success.
Feist's pared-back new album isn't one of those ladylike confessionals that too many female singer-songwriters put out. Combining the creak, hiss and slamming doors of near-DIY recording with the unexpected rattle of early PJ Harvey (on standout tracks like Pleasure), the Canadian artist spends 11 songs examining her recent past, sidestepping easy cliches. That's not to say that the album isn't accessible - I Wish I Didn't Miss You packs a chorus and a very relatable sense of vulnerable frustration - but these songs about maturity and internal toughness often move in mysterious ways, leaving plenty of space for Feist's probing guitar work and an atmosphere that really breathes.
It's been six years since Leslie Feist released previous album 'Metals,' and in that period the times have certainly changed. Judging by 'Pleasure,' so has she. For anyone only familiar with some of her biggest singles, including the nursery rhyme-like '1234,' the often uncompromising, stripped-back nature of her new record will probably come as a huge surprise.
You've got to hand it to Feist: beginning your first record in six years with a pregnant pause is pretty ballsy. The teasing, introductory silence is answered with lead single "Pleasure," which refuses to play to expectation. Much like her last record, Metals, eschewed her reputation as a creator of indie pop smashes like "1234" and "Mushaboom" through a series of moodily atmospheric pieces, Pleasure is yet another progression.
Nearing a 20-year music career, Leslie Feist has proven herself to be a force of nature since the release of her debut record Monarch in 1999. Flaunting raspy vocals and an emotionally raw look at love and longing, Feist has become a universal voice for the intimacy of relationships. Though Feist has remained under the radar the past few years (she was recently seen gathering backpacks for HIV-positive kids in Malawi), it seems she's used the time to look beyond herself, take a break from music, and hone in on her craft.
Feist has spent the past decade largely out of the public eye, perpetually distancing herself from her unlikely 2007 pop breakthrough The Reminder, which spawned the top 10 hit “1234” and helped sell boatloads of iPods. Since then, she has released just one record, the artful 2011 LP Metals, and toured only briefly. But now, with her first album in six years, she’s reemerging with Pleasure, her most contemplative and cloistered work to date.
If you're lucky, at some point in life you meet a person who radiates an inexplicable warmth, like there's a tiny star glowing inside of them. You don't have to love them. You don't even have to be friends. The person brightens whatever space they enter regardless of association. They immediately ….
In a bizarro universe, Leslie Feist is a fool's idea of a one-hit wonder--a distinctly aughts success story about the power of digital music providers, ad syncs, and viral videos in breaking quirky Top 10 hits like "1234. " Feist had her chance to take the iPod money and run, but instead of succumbing to her poppier sensibilities--which always felt more like a mask she put on when she wasn't soothing her melancholy--she dug in deeper on her salt-of-the-earth soulfulness and relaxed-fit rock-guitar chops with 2011's Metals . Her breakout masterpiece The Reminder made Feist a platinum-selling star in her native Canada, but Metals showed she was not terribly interested in the part.
If you haven't checked in with Feist since back when she was the chill Toronto folk-pop charmer happily counting us off on her left-field 2007 hit "1234," you might be in for a surprise. Pleasure, her first LP in six years, trades the sweater-wearing kitchen-jam vibe of her breakthrough The Reminder for a stark intimacy that can suggest Kate & Anna McGarrigle if they'd been big fans of the Young Marble Giants' post-punk bedroom mumblings or PJ Harvey's blues-wrath epistle To Bring You My Love. "It's my pleasure and your pleasure," Feist sings, her voice low, raw-nerved and right in your ear against dank, stressed-out guitar roil.
Leslie Feist's fifth album, Pleasure, exudes the artisanal vibe of an artist tinkering with half-finished songs in front of friends in her backyard. In fact, the album was mostly recorded live in three separate locations, a lo-fi approach—complete with noticeable tape hiss in its many quiet moments—that finds the Canadian singer-songwriter reveling in the organic imperfections of both her music and the fragile human condition. As a result, Pleasure is miles away from her Grammy-nominated breakthrough, The Reminder, further distancing Feist from a reputation as a twee indie darling.
Leslie Feist has made her entire career off of creating profoundly beautiful music from subtle and unforced moments. Whether it was the stripped-down pop of The Reminder, or the brooding, rhythmic Metals, she's shown the unparalleled ability to let her songs breathe. Her restraint in not giving in to the temptation to over-edit or over-layer her work is even more remarkable in our era, which is so often chastised for turning everything up to 11, overwhelming the listener into submission with noise.
The best Leslie Feist songs mix whimsy and realness into an emotional antioxidant smoothie. Pleasure is her first record in six years. Metals was a bit misunderstood since the pure pop fantasies of her previous singles “Mushaboom” and “1 2 3 4” weren’t indicative of the overall direction of the project. Feist has been on her way to the immediate since ’04.
Across her nearly two-decade run, there's always been the prevailing sense that Leslie Feist makes music by and large for her own betterment. Pep talks, mantras, admissions and regrets dot the margins of Feist's winding path like snake holes in the grass, with each memo to self etching a further entry in her very public diary. Even while briefly gracing the dizzying heights of pop stardom, iPod Nano commercials and all, Feist never passed up the opportunity to lay herself bare, bravely ripping off band aids concealing the unformed scabs of past relationships and allowing the invading air to slowly but surely turn hurt into healing.
Discounting the outliers, Leslie Feist's music is consistent and realized. She’s an art-folkie in the Mitchell/Dylan tradition or, among contemporaries, akin to Jesca Hoop or Lisa Hannigan. She has sonic fingerprints: harmonies laid like layered tissue paper, scratchy side up (think the end of "My Moon My Man"); songs existing on open-air sets of found sounds.