Monday, August 27, 2007

Sleepless long nights, that is what my youth was for

If one single album could represent an entire holiday, the musical score to my three weeks spent idly in France would be signified by Feist’s The Reminder. I bought the former Broken Social Scene member’s second album on my second or third day there, in a pleasantly crowded FNAC store in Paris. I knew the album fairly well when I bought it, having previously acquired it by less than legal methods (ahem…) but I usually have to own a physical copy of the music to be able to fully connect with it. It isn’t such a matter of being Old Skool as it is being lazy, it’s easier to “get into” an album when you have all the accompanying paraphernalia to guide you along; jewel case, artwork, booklet, that shiny silver disc. There’s a time and a place to wax rhapsodic on liner notes, but this isn’t it.

Listening to The Reminder, feeling stoned on the music and the lightness of air, my sleepy-sick tiredness and the heat and noise of the Paris streets clattering through the open windows of our apartment, I promptly decided that this was one of the best albums of the year so far. Not only is it a ballsy, beautiful collection of songs with maturely rendered instrumentation, but The Reminder has an easy flow which is a rarity in a modern album. Radiohead’s last effort Hail To The Thief was filled with great songs, but it was also stilted and bloated. There was no continuous link binding the songs together; or if there was, it was sequestered away in Thom Yorke’s head. Feist’s themes may not be grandiose, love songs and rocking out with your friends aren’t going to shatter the earth, but she maintains roughly the same tone throughout. Never mind that “SeaLion Woman”, a rollicking Nina Simone cover, packs a wallop greater than, say, “The Water” but they are not so dissimilar to create a noticeable jump. The Reminder is 13 sophisticated pop songs, united by deft instrumation and the weird, keening thing that is Leslie Fiest’s singing voice. If she can’t quite reach every note perfectly, if she sometimes snags over the lyrics, this only adds to the intimate feel of the album. It’s more polished than 2004’s Let It Die which has attracted criticism (see: Stylus Magazine’s review) but it is also more musically centred. Let It Die has fabulous songs (and The Reminder has not got a BeeGees cover, which is always a bonus) but it does not have the vision that The Reminder posesses. Roughness and lo-fi productions have always been praised in music circles, but that does not mean a well-produced album is a negative thing. Feist is a legitimate indie singer; but she’s smart enough to get good people working alongside her, and has the sense of humour to have fun with it. The Reminder is the sound of a singer being totally at ease with herself. All you haters can go screw you'selves!

As for the songs themselves now, it’s hard to imagine where to start. The pure burst of happy nostalgia that is “1234”, the shy sweetness of “Brandy Alexander” and the sultry stomp “My Moon, My Man” all vy for my favourite song on the album, but my preferences are in a constant state of flux. One moment I’ll decided that “Limit To Your Love” is one of the best things she’s ever done, the next moment I’m dying for a blast of “SeaLion Woman”.

The French love Feist, and she loves them right back. The Reminder was recorded mostly in Paris and therefore it’s fitting that it was in Frogland that I grew to love it, along with Let It Die. The feeling of companionship and camaraderie that is scattered through the album (Feist is quite happy to share song writing duties and handclaps with her friends and fellow musicians) was mirrored in my own listening experiences of it; over the course of our holiday my whole family grew to love the album as much, or even more, than my own appreciation of it. I’ve expressed elsewhere that I can only consider albums amazing if they transcend themselves and reach out into my everyday life. If I don’t have a tangible experience with it, no matter how great the songs, I can’t claim to love it. All my favourite albums have some personal memories attached to them. It’s safe to say that The Reminder has shot into my personal favourites.

And now, for your listening pleasure, The Mixed-Up Files presents Feist. Enjoy!


Damien Kelly said...

I always hated buying music abroad...When I was in Germany I couldn't find Rammsteins live album...or more to the point ANY of their albums at all. Rammstein...Germany...HELLO!!!!


Catherine said...

Hah, really? That's hilarious. Anytime I've been away I've been able to find great music shops. Italy in first year was the first place I ever found Siouxsie and the Banshees albums for sale!

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