The Reminder

Subtlety is a powerful tool in the hands of an artist who appreciates thoughtful understatement and the beauty of open space. Leslie Feist, after an early career of creating music so loud that it nearly destroyed her voice, has become a practitioner of quiet intensity. It’s rare to find other pop-singers who offer such controlled passion beyond Sinead O’Connor and Cat Power.

Feist, as she is known, began her career in punk bands and later became a member of the indie-rock band Broken Social Scene. She also worked with electro-punster Peaches. Through her associations with other artists Feist began to assemble a group of musicians that would aid her in her solo career, perhaps most notably Gonzales who has become her foremost collaborator and helped produce this CD.

The Reminder is Feist’s 3rd solo release and marks her ascendancy to complete artist status. Gone are the covers of her earlier efforts. Feist writes or co-writes all but one song on this release thereby bringing to the forefront her unique and enigmatic vision. Love is the theme here but it is painted in expressionist language that conveys emotion through poetic imagery. The listener is forced to read between the lines for further clues as to Feist’s intent and she leaves plenty of space to roam.

Raised in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Calgary, there is a feel of the wide open Canadian plains in Feist’s music. The production is expansive but uncluttered. Instruments blow through like tumbleweeds, a piano line wanders in, a vibraphone pipes up, a lonesome banjo plucks unobtrusively over yonder, a flugelhorn trails at a distance. And the one anchor in this vast expanse is Feist’s gorgeous voice, at once plaintive and complex, contemplative, barely containing the raw, potent sexuality that lies coiled, ready to strike.

These are songs of great delicacy that reveal themselves upon repeated listening. They are modern pop-folk torch ballads that elicit the excitement and pain of budding love affairs and struggling relationships, of rootless existence. There are several songs that bubble up to the level of jaunty pop songs, especially the single “1-2-3-4” which features the arrangements of long-time k.d. lang collaborator Ben Mink. “Sealion” is a fresh take on the traditional “See Line Woman” featuring hand-claps and guitar-bridge. “Brandy Alexander” and “Honey Honey” are pretty enough to cry over.

The Reminder is not a melancholy record but it is one that begs you to be patient. Take your time, use your headphones, share it with a friend on a quiet evening and let it sink into your subconscious. The reward is worth the effort.

Rosemary Welsch, WYEP Afternoon Mix host