Feist is the stage name for Canadian singer-songwriter, Leslie Feist. Having played in bands since she was 15, Feist rose to fame as a member of Toronto-based indie rock group, Broken Social Scene. While touring with the band, she recorded a collection of songs that eventually became her first solo record, Let It Die which won her two Juno Awards. Her second major label release, The Reminder, was certified gold in the U.S. and won her a Juno Award for album of the year. Her latest record, Metals, has received widespread critical acclaim.
My wedding ring is composed of palladium. With the chemical symbol Pd and an atomic number of 46, Palladium, the element, is a building block for a wide variety of everyday objects. Not only is the element a representation of my undying love for my wife, it also functions in connector plating in consumer products. Depending on perspective, the same elementary metal is symbolically priceless or a utilitarian means to entertainment.
Similar to the ways we understand Palladium, Feist’s latest record, Metals, explores the nature of core elements by the various and contrasting ways in which we view them. In fact, in an interview with SPIN magazine Feist admits that “the title Metals was partially inspired by 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, which is about the Spanish Conquistadors’ treatment of precious metals, like gold, versus the Aztec Indians’ methods. The former forged intricate weapons; the latter decorated their homes and goods in gold.” (SPIN).
The Good and Bad of a Relationship
A closer look at Metals’ production, composition, and lyrics reveals a group of songs detailing the confusion in relationships when each party comprehends them through a different lens.
Such effects provide gritty and dark results, such as the beautiful opening track, “The Bad in Each Other” which illustrates in woeful splendor,
“A good man, and a good woman / Can’t find the good in each other / And a good man, and a good woman / Will bring out the worst in each other / The bad in each other.”
In the song’s narrative, Feist readily admits that neither person in the relationship is at fault. They are both good. Mixing the two together, however, creates a violent chemical reaction like two useful elements fighting over an electron.
The Tension and Answer
Feist also exhibits the dualistic view of objects through the ways in which the music and lyrics relate. In one of the more aggressive songs, “A Commotion”, Feist uses the verse to build tension and the chorus as an answer,
“It flickered to light / It turned broke what was right / It got the roots by the hair / What was no longer there / It blocked out the sun / It climbed up the stairs / And then it slipped through the cracks / I wasn’t watching my back /
As “A Commotion” illustrates, Feist’s lyrics and melodies offer glimpses of beauty, simplicity, and poetry. Yet, the instruments add tension to the melody with stark rhythms, tense chord progressions, and attentive production values.
In fact, Metals remains, on the whole, true to the Feist sound of old, but at the same time, contributes a more nuanced take to her style. While her previous record portrays a simple and rootsy take to folk music, Metals adds a greater level of detail. Each track supplies subtle atmospheric additions that give Metals its own impeccable signature.
Melodically Sound and Beautiful in Its Subtlety
Aside from the track “Graveyard”, Metals does not carry an overtly pop hit in the vein of “1234” from her previous album The Reminder. Exploring miscommunication and the perils of undefined relationships, Metals has no room for pop accessibility. But, don’t take this statement as a condemnation of Feist’s art.
Metals is melodically sound and beautiful in its subtlety. The record explores elements in their multiplicity of meaning. Palladium is a wedding ring or a circuit board; gold is a weapon or a home decoration; and a relationship is perfect or broken; it always depends on your perspective. I love Metalsand consider a contender for album of the year. Do yourself a favor and check it out.