Anticipating Feist’s latest album, four years since the release of her last, has been relatively frustrating. It took patience to wait for some more of those smooth, synthy jazz tracks heard on Let It Die, or the lighter lyrical pop that colored The Reminder. Granted, Feist and crew did release a documentary film (2010’s “Look at What the Light Did Now”) and she dabbled in a few musical collaborations with the likes of Grizzly Bear and her old band, Broken Social Scene. It’s obvious that Feist wasn’t going to rush the process of creating her latest album, Metals, and rip off her listeners.
For one thing, there are less xylophones in this album than have been featured in her past works. She tends to draw out and linger on open vowels more than before, while emotionally charging her nuanced wails. Although she technically might be a solo act, Leslie Feist has always had a loyal group of musicians working with her, one of them being her long-time collaborator, the Renaissance man of music, Chilly Gonzales. In the vein of Arcade Fire, Metals features Feist jamming with a number of other musicians, as if she’s at a hootenanny, in a field, where local town folk were asked to bring some guitars, tambourines and fiddles.
Unfortunately, the album doesn’t consistently charm. In “Bittersweet Melodies” the background vocals give off a “Charlie Brown Christmas” vibe and the featured flute might be a little reminiscent of the ’70s jazz fusion band Hiroshima. Or if you listen to the album in one sitting, the stomping, pulsating, tambourine-rattling, French horn-blowing tracks become slightly indistinguishable and no longer contain their moments of startling intensity.
Despite these let downs, Feist still delivers unexpected musical innovations grounded in her multi-genre background. It’s important to keep in mind that she’s still the same woman who used to don minimal amounts of spandex and do back-up vocals for Peaches. She’s still the same woman who used to tap dance while performing underground electro hip-hop with Gonzales. Feist’s current music can be seen as an anomaly in comparison to her past, but it can at least be recognized as her own sound. For the time being, her style has evolved into darker, episodic, acoustic rock, proving that she still has a lot of inspiration trickling out and spilling on to her guitar.