Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Anyone expecting another fun little ditty that will land Leslie on Sesame Street singing with Muppets better look elsewhere.  Oh, unless the show has added a new character, Moody the Muppet, who mopes around the street followed by a string section.  Seemingly determined to not travel that path again, there is nothing frivolous like 1,2,3,4 here, and not really any basic pop songs either, in the catchy definition.  Instead, its a disc of mood and intensity, sound-shaping and vocalizing, sadness, reflection and artistic creation.

These are all good things, but something is also missing.  Part of Feist's charm has been that sense of fun, intelligent fun, not the trashy-campy crap of so many wanna-be divas, but the joyous fun of someone getting to do this for a living, singing and entertaining and writing with your pals.  This album is, simply put, mostly serious, the words dense poetry of natural images and passionate people.  The opening track, The Bad In Each Other, is a good example of this:  "Then a good man and a good woman will bring out the worst in each other."  There's no colourful group-dancing video for this one.

Of course, who's to say Feist has to include some levity in her work, or give us a break in the flow of the album?  There is lots of merit in this style, from her and others.  Being a mellow, Pet Sounds-kind-of-guy myself, I can certainly take 40 minutes of down and in fact Metals does have its upbeat moments.  No, my main complaint is in the recording and production.  The overall sound scheme, as designed by Feist and her co-producers (Chili Gonzalez, Mocky, Valgeir Sigurdsson), muddies her vocals to the point you are straining to catch her words.  It's better with earbuds I suppose, but it's as if she is off-mic slightly, and not enunciating.  The note is there, the style, but not the substance.  And it is a choice, a technique that was chosen, and to my ears, ill-advised.  Yes, the sound of her voice, the quality is important, but if you're telling a story, why make it hard for the audience to hear?  I am fully ready to admit this may just be a personal problem I have, and heck, maybe I'm losing some hearing from years of standing by the speaker columns in bars. But I will be interested in the long-term reaction to this album, as I advance my pet theory.  What can I tell ya?  I found Metal beautiful, melancholy and really hard to understand.

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