Mid-2000s music was marked by a battle of the opposites; you either jammed out to Flo Rida’s racy “Low” at your low-budget school dance or daydreamed to Colbie Caillat’s relaxing “Bubbly” during a sunlit recess.
Originating in Calgary, singer-songwriter Leslie Feist’s contributions to indie folk-pop place her in the latter category. With a robust yet angelic voice like Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine to warm up the studio and her Juno Award-winning album, The Reminder, Feist was a crowd favourite who loosened up the craze-filled music charts more than just a smidgen.
Granted, while her lyrics are poetically thoughtful, some of the tracks overstate their ambience to the point of stultifying the listener. One example is “The Water”, which implicitly references Peggy’s Cove in Halifax as the backdrop for how desolate and uncertain human life can be because of how it disconnects from nature. The music should’ve been ominously engaging, but instead is just another one for the lounge.
Luckily, the majority of the album makes up for it, with “Honey, Honey” as a truly spooky song by contrast. Feist sings about someone she misses and is unsure whether he will return to her from his exciting travels out at sea. What follows are hauntingly sweet “choo choo train” vocals, the 8-bit-style effects the acoustic guitar manages to recreate, and a weeping electric guitar reminiscent of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games”. Clearly, there’s no time to cry when there’s art to be made.
“I Feel It All” is another one of Feist’s mature pieces. She addresses the importance of balance and responsibility in human relationships; these ideas can be abused, leaving people hurt, unless we promote growth through honesty and goodwill. The song picks up the pace with bouncy piano chords, and her vocals become more passionate as it goes on, compelling you to reflect on the relationships in your own life.
The clever metaphors continue in “My Moon My Man,” in which both she and the production sound like a charming blend between Nina Persson of The Cardigans and Sara Bareilles, just more mysterious. Much like the moon’s phases, Feist’s in-song partner goes through different moods, causing problems in their romance. Even though she feels she should leave, the love that is there means a lot to her, and is uneasy about trying with someone else. I think many couples who experience rough patches will relate to her words; when you care for someone, you’re more inclined to learn from what’s going wrong and how to fix it to grow together.
Finally, I can’t sign off without mentioning her critically acclaimed hit, “1234”. It is one of the cutest songs I have heard in my life about the naivety of teenage crushes. The highlights for me are the brass section’s march and piano glissando that’s like the happy ending to a children’s movie.
Nowadays, Feist isn’t in the spotlight as much, but you can still occasionally catch her on the radio. Newer artists in the genre seem to be emerging though, like Torontonian Barbra Lica, so it’s good to know there’s always room for those quieter moments amidst all the noise.