By Erin Harrington
Leslie Feist (whose performing name is simply “Feist”) is a Canadian-born musician labeled “folk singer.” However, this label is confining. Feist is so creative that you can’t quite pinpoint her in any specific genre. She has a vocal dynamism that rivals legends such as Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. Her choice to implement complex and syncopated rhythms within much of her music highlights her ingenious musicianship. The quirky and curious instruments used on her latest album, including a vibraphone, a farfisa, a flugel horn, and melodica, just to name a few, illustrate just how original her music is.
The Reminder, her newest album, was released just last month in America, and can be seen brandished all over the shelves of your friendly neighborhood Starbucks. Having your album sold in the coffee monster corporation that is Starbucks almost inevitably indicates mediocrity. However, Feist’s new album is absolutely brilliant.
The Reminder starts out with what can only be described as a combination of happy jazz and folk. “Happy” appears to be a rather straightforward song, but in actuality the song is musically layered and complex. And of course, the mood of the song just puts a smile on your face.
“I Feel It All” makes an abrupt transition into an alternative rock genre. The chord progression and percussion are very traditionally rock but her vocals and piano definitely pushes it into the “alternative” genre.
Hands down, the most creative song on this album is composed of only about three different musical sentences. The musicianship of the song always catches you by surprise. Feist decides to implement various hand clapping patterns for her percussion to back up the repeated utterances of the song title, “Sea Lion.” The percussion progresses into very Latin clavian rhythms, beat out on what sounds very much like a cowbell. Eventually a traditional drum set enters into the mix. “Sea Lion” can be described as a modern interpretation of the classic chain-gang ballads made famous in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The tone of the album then morphs into a near gospel/jazz/bluegrass combination. Feist combines, a banjo, jazz piano, and gospel choir chorus to make a truly inspired song, simply titled, “1234.”
Feist continues to implement creative hand-clapping and snapping patterns in her absolutely infectious song “Brandy Alexander.” This song also shows off Feist’s incredible skills in vocalization and melody composition. This deceivingly intricate song makes it appealing for all audiences.
Towards the end of the album, Feist mixes Electronica back-up vocals with a classical string instrument for a very unique combination. With clever lyrics and aesthetically pleasing instrumentation, this song is as irresistible as its title: “Honey, Honey.”
What we are left with in the final song of the album is a somber alternative rock ballad (reminiscent of The Postal Service). Feist names this intensely dramatic song, “How My Heart Behaves.” The lyrics and instrumental mood ring true to real life and leave you with a good taste in your mouth and satisfied ears.
Feist’s creative and sparkling music on her latest album illuminate her talent as an artist. An untrained listener will have to work much harder at appreciating her, but the hard work will definitely pay off. Leslie Feist is truly a musician’s musician.