By TYLER ROSS
Leslie Feist stands in a somewhat precarious position. In her solo career, she gained mainstream recognition with her wonderfully cheery hit single “1234.” iPods were sold, kids danced, and Feist was thrust into the spotlight. However, she continued to work with Broken Social Scene, an alternative indie-rock outfit known for their eclectic music that rarely succumbs to pop or mainstream pressure. It might seem that Feist has placed herself square in the middle of a battle over musical integrity, but on her newest album, Metals, she makes no concessions.
Though she works loosely under the folk-rock moniker, Feist has striven to avoid such labeling. The songs on Metals carefully straddle the line between poppy and obscure. “The Bad In Each Other” opens the album with a rhythmic guitar riff and soaring vocal refrain, only to bring things down with horns and her crooning. “Graveyard” evokes a slowly unfolding dreamy state. Horns creep in, then a heavenly chorus; soon it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. The song ends in a jubilant manner, with Feist pleading, “Bring them all back to life!” Even with such a morbid subject, the song is a beautiful piece that carefully blends pop into folk to great effect.
If there’s one song that embodies Feist’s time with Broken Social Scene, it’s “Caught A Long Wind.” Taking her time, Feist unravels an organic mix reminiscent of some fairytale setting. Chimes rustle in a creaking forest as a subdued piano plays behind melodic runs on the acoustic guitar before the laid back rush of the standup bass and rhythmic clapping brings the song to an end.
The most beautiful parts of Metals are the vast differences from song to song. “How Come You Never Go There” immediately feels like a Fiona Apple song until Feist throws in a distorted guitar lick; regardless, it would seem right at home being played in some small club, with just Feist and her small backing band on stage. The slow rolling “The Circle Married The Line” showcases Feist’s incredible vocal range as she switches between rhythmic staccato and slow and expressive delivery.
For all the changes in pace and delivery, Metals never really loses momentum. The energy might wane, but the musical inspiration always remains. Feist deftly mixes her myriad of influences into an album grounded in folk, but never strays too far away from pop or rock as to lose her audience’s interest. As such, Metals comes at an apropriate time of the year: fall. Much like the season, the album is a mix of slow and fast, somewhere between contemplation and reckless abandon.