Feist - Pleasure
May 5, 2017
89
Beloved Canadian artist Feist takes a Fiona Apple-length break and returns with a Fiona Apple-quality album.

Pleasure's sonic textures are easily its most ear-grabbing aspect; amps buzz, vocals congeal, synth tones pulse. Unlike previous record Metals, which fit neatly in the early 2010s canon of ambitious universe-building indie pop records (think Lykke Li's Wounded Rhymes), Pleasure really carves out an aesthetic that no one else is doing right now.

The album has the advantage of being ten years removed from Feist's indie blockbuster The Reminder, and thus not as readily viewable as "a disappointment" for lacking pop sensibility. This time around, the singles aren't even trying to be radio friendly, although "Get Not High, Get Not Low" still offers a surprise bass boost in its chorus, as well as the kind of floaty harmonic structure indie pop loves.

Feist's vocal deliveries in general are also decidedly less polite - the hushed vocals that permeated songs like "Sealion" and "I Feel it All" are still here, but so are raw shouts on "Century," a ragged moan on "I Wish I Didn't Miss You," and straight-up bar singing on "Any Party." It's to Feist's credit that she manages to display so much dynamism on such an aesthetically persistent record.

It's been interesting to see the different ways people process this album. There's been a lot of emphasis on the most audacious moments of the record (namely that Mastodon sample in "A Man is Not His Song" and Jarvis Cocker's hyperdramatic monologue on "Century"), with some dismissing the complex subject matter of both songs through their stranger contortions. Similarly I don't think every assertion about possible influences gives Feist enough credit (those PJ Harvey comparisons lose their validity after the first two songs), but if the one takeaway you get from this album is that Feist has created a fascinating alternative to her post-Reminder success, that should be sufficient.

For me, Pleasure's biggest shortcoming is ultimately the same as Metals - a few too many ballad-heavy moments, but this time around the ones that manage to fully embrace her newfound sound (namely "The Wind" and "A Man is Not His Song") still fare well. If this is a direction Feist continues to pursue, I'll gladly wait another six years for the next record.
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