REVIEW: Feist, The Reminder, Cherry Tree/Interscope

Posted May 26th, 2007 by eric

Like Cat Power, it’s not so much about the music as it is the voice for Leslie Feist. She has a voice that makes you pay attention. She can pull off simple, saccharine lines like “we could hold each other tight tonight” (“So Sorry”) simply because her inflection makes it mean so much more than it does on paper. Her breezy arrangements reflect her underground roots with carefree sentimentality. Her dogged dependence upon sparseness and minimalism is fundamental to the success of her writing. Even the one-finger keyboard flourishes on “I Feel It All” add enough of a charming atmosphere to her sound to make the song stick to your ribcage.

The piano-based stomp of “My Moon, My Man” is instantly catchy and should be all over the radio, if radio weren’t such a clusterfuck of vapidity. As Feist coos over the verses, her voice doubled to seductive effect, she reels in any lingering, doubtful listeners. The electronic touches are relegated to the background yet play such an integral part in the mood of the song. It’s like a folksy futurism, welcoming and unpretentious.

The fragility of her production makes every moment sound like it could fall apart. There’s an inherent tension even in moments that should sound blithe. “The Park” exemplifies this duality. She strikes her chords so loosely and with what borders on indifference. Sometimes, instead of hitting the next, expected chord when she’s supposed to, she pulls back and picks out the notes slowly. The maudlin mood of “The Water” would sound fairly even-keeled with a lesser voice, but Feist’s pure cadence makes it devastatingly sad. She hits notes that my speakers can’t even handle.

The gospel tinge of “Sea Lion” revolves around a chant and handclaps. When Feist pushes her voice a bit, the aggression is unnerving and eerie. She can sound powerful without much effort. It makes the mystery all the more alluring. This is enigmatic music that breaks any sort of pre-conditioned indie rock molds. The only moment on the record that strikes an overly mawkish chord is “Limit to Your Love”, which suffers from sounding like a Roberta Flack outtake. But she follows it up with the bouncy “1 2 3 4” with its celebratory horns, jaunty piano, and, of course, her lovely, intimate voice.

The Reminder casts a spell that’s not easy to shake. It’s by turns delicate and sweet and easygoing as well as sad and full of longing, and it’s easily one of the best records released so far this year because you don’t want the sound of her voice ever to stop.

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