Metals is a smart change for Feist. Her last album, 2007’s The Reminder, was filled with jolly pop songs that were lovely for a while, but quickly became tiresome due to the unrelenting cheerfulness of it all. Watching her perform ‘1234’, the lead single from The Reminder, with a group of chickens, penguins and monsters on Sesame Street is all sorts of weird for an ex-Broken Social Scene member, but makes total sense when listening to the song. With Metals, Feist’s sound has got darker and rougher, but still keeps the brilliant ear for addictive melodies that she’s known for.
This darker mood works well with Feist’s distinctive voice and the blues influences running through the album. Some songs could have ended up being incredibly downtrodden sung by another artist. Take ‘Graveyard’ for example. This track has no right being as joyful as it is. Slow, stark drums, dive bar piano and muted horns, it almost sounds like a funeral dirge, but her hazy croon lifts the whole thing up, a juxtaposition noted in the lyrics; “The graveyard, all full of light.” She soon builds the song into a bright chant with her backing singers, “Bring them all back to life.”
Although her voice is a massive part of what makes her a fantastic artist, the actual lyrics have never been that impressive or a big feature on her previous albums, and unfortunately this is true for Metals too. I found myself not really connecting with many of the songs or being a bit put off by a couple clunky metaphors. While this doesn’t bother me as much on some tracks, Metals has quite a few bare, sketchy tunes with no real hooks, like ‘Comfort Me’ and ‘A Commotion’, that have to be carried by her lyrics, but there isn’t much to hold on to.
Despite this, the songs that do have catchy hooks are pretty excellent. ‘How Come You Never Go There’, the first single from Metals, belongs in a smoky jazz club and comes complete with a heavy, distorted guitar riff and light, twinkling keys. The folksy ‘Cicadas and Gulls’ sounds like a b-side from Feist’s second album, Let It Die. It’s short, understated and simple, just Feist and her acoustic guitar, accompanied by a few bursts of the backing singers humming a harmony. The backing singers are a brilliant addition to almost every song they’re in, which is luckily almost every song. They fill out a lot of the space that could leave a track sounding empty and add a lot of depth to Feist’s sometimes sparse song structures.
Metals has problems and does run on a little bit longer than I would have liked, but overall, it’s a really great release from Feist. There are a bunch of catchy choruses to whistle while wandering about in the quaint countryside, but there’s also no way in hell that you will see Feist singing one of these songs as a duet with Elmo or Big Bird. Really, that’s all that matters.
Rejected Obvious Review Title: Has Feist really gone metal?