Full disclosure: I probably shouldn’t be reviewing this. I first heard Feist back in 2006, and something about the sultry vocals and acrobatic turns of her delivery touched my adolescent heart. I was hooked. I listened to 2004’s Let It Die obsessively, as well as the 2007 follow-up The Reminder – a chart-topping and critical success, due in no small part to the notorious iPod ad – and even scoured the internet for her under-the-radar self-pressed debut in 1999, Monarch (it’s worth the search).
For reasons that I can’t quite fathom, I, who would rather listen to anything but the unending hordes of ‘female indie singer-songwriters’, am an unremitting and incorrigible Feist fan. Yet despite my heightened anticipation, I couldn’t have been prepared for Metals, her latest and first release in four years. Gorgeously produced by Gonzales and Valgeir Sigurðsson (noted for his work with Björk and Nico Muhly), the lush Metals is a work of understated but unmistakeable sublimity.
Managing to be at once restrained and wholly enveloping, the semi-orchestral instrumentation beautifully accompanies Feist’s already striking vocal ability. The emotional ‘Graveyard’, where her voice touchingly strains on her repeated pleas to ‘bring them all back to life’, is perfectly accompanied by dirge-esque horns, organ, and hushed cymbals. The rapturous ‘A Commotion’, on the other hand, pits Feist’s multi-tracked vocal chords against the roar of circular-breathing driven saxophone blasts.
But the most affecting of the Metals roster is the trio at the halfway mark: ‘Bittersweet Melodies’, ‘Anti-Pioneer’, and ‘Undiscovered First’, each of which starts softly but erupts in a cathartic and unique climax. ‘Bittersweet Melodies’ makes use of light crash cymbals, strings, and a shimmering piano, while ‘Undiscovered First’ resorts to a rougher guitar backing (sprinkled with tambourines) complemented by a host of back-up singers. ‘The Circle Married the Line’, however, is where Feist’s utterly breathtaking voice takes centre-stage, jumping octaves alongside swelling strings, breaking slightly in moments of wrenching emotion. I’m taken all over again.