A few weeks ago I had no idea who Feist was. It was with complete innocence that I slid her One Evening single into my cd drive on my work machine. No expectation, little curiosity; just a few minutes to kill. It’s not like when you’ve got a new album from a band you’re already into. You know, that optimistic feeling that lets you down on numerous occasions when a band just can’t match their previous heights. They do say that a pessimist is often pleasantly surprised of course, but in this instance it was just a case of blissful ignorance. Skip to the present and I can’t understand how I could have had a respectable music collection without Feist in it. She is quite brilliant. A genuine female vocal talent that can move you, seduce you, and make you want to dance in equal measure without even trying. A bona fide song-writing talent so direct that at times it seems to be looking in you straight in the eye from a foot away, not the distant stare that most others manage.
What’s most incredible about Let It Die, apart from being in the presence of such a stunningly crisp voice for 13 tracks, is that it takes in so many song-writing genres on the way, but never feels uncomfortable or forced. Doo-wop meets Folk-style storytelling in the Brill Building meets contemporary pop in the discotheque. Each track has a unique perspective, yet a unified mood pervades the whole album throughout. There aren’t many voices in the world that can do that. Not any more, at any rate.
So where has this talent suddenly sprung from? Good question. In reality it’s not that sudden, as is usually the case. The Canadian says her first proper gig was supporting the Ramones when her high school punk band won a battle of the bands contest. At this point she lived in Calgary, but after losing her voice on her first cross-Canadian tour, she moved to Toronto to see a musical injury specialist. Instructed not to sing for several months, she let her guitar do the work for her for a while, honing the skills of song structure that would eventually enable her to pursue a solo career. She actually released her first album in 1999, but it’s through her collaborations that her snowball has gradually gathered mass. Recently she’s appeared on the brilliant new album from Kings of Convenience (which Pixelsurgeon reviewed recently), Riot on an Empty Street, and has written a duet with Jane Birkin.
But how she got here hardly matters. Feist is here now and that should be enough for anybody. Moments of this album are so perfectly executed it’s hard to believe it’s a new release by a new artist and not a reissued classic. They just don’t make them like this any more. But it’s got nothing to do with fashion; they couldn’t make them like this if they tried. Even if some of the music might recall the 60s and 70s (and a great cover of Inside and Out by the Beegees reinforces this), the delivery is so contemporarily cool it’s untrue. This is timeless music. It sounds great in 2004, just as it would have sounded great in 2074, and will sound great in 2034.
From the upbeat Bacharach embodied in the second track, Mushaboom, which will have you reaching for a tambourine, to the deeply moving ballad, Now At Last, the range is simply staggering. Feist’s voice draws you in like a tuning fork; punchy and precise, cutting cleanly through the air, but as it reverberates around your head you hope the exquisite sound will stay there forever. Above all, it manages to be fun throughout. Even on Now At Last, a fairly bleak ballad, you can sense the breeze around the corner. Hopefully, Let It Die will inspire other vocalists, both male and female, to cut themselves free from the genre shackles they’ve imposed upon themselves. In fact, they’ll need to if they’re going to survive, because in comparison to Feist they’re as dead as a Dido.
Let It Die (2004)
Genre: Singer Songwriter, Pop, Soul, Folk
Record Label: Universal France