Feist - Pleasure album cover (photo:: Universal Music)
Album reviews
Artist:
Feist
Album:
Pleasure
Release year:
2017
Label:
Universal
16 August 2017 / by Christina Wong (author)

There’s something raw, beautiful, and melancholic to Pleasure, Leslie Feist’s highly-anticipated fifth studio album. For those of you who weren’t fans of the last album Metals (2010) and were hoping for something reminiscent of The Reminder (2007), this isn’t it. Taking a page where Metals left off, Pleasure is just as experimental and less about the commercial, pop hits (as we saw in The Reminder’s "1-2-3-4" and "My Moon My Man"). Feist’s vocals and its distinctive lilt, the harmonies overlaid, and the guitar shine in Pleasure, whereas in Metals, they all felt secondary to the orchestral arrangements.

Without reading too much into it, the album feels wedged in that liminal state of having gone through a difficult period (be it a breakup, a loss) and having not-quite-reached-the-other-side-of-that-hump. It’s that stage of picking up the pieces and starting over and attempting to redefine yourself. Sentiments that anyone can relate to. And perhaps the album serves as a reflection and an outlet for Feist of the past six years that have passed since Metals was released, and perhaps is one of their most emotional albums to date.

Songs vary in range from the guitar-laden title track that opens the album to rock-like anthems "Century" (with an unexpected oration by Jarvis Cocker) to bluesy "I'm Not Running Away," to the delicate yet reassuring "Young Up."

On closer listen, you can hear variances of the background hum of a room in such songs as "I Wish I Didn’t Miss You," "Get Not High, Get Not Low," and "Lost Dreams," that was perhaps deliberately left in to suggest the different recording environments. (In the liner notes, it states the album was recorded in three locations: California, New York State and Paris.) Doing so, makes it seem we're right in the room with her. Ambient sounds make another appearance: the sound of the door closing, car zooming by, with "Pleasure" playing in the stereo, followed by cricket chirps at the end of "Any Party" that segues into "A Man Is Not His Song" is reminiscent of the door slamming at the end of "My Moon My Man" that segues into the chirping heard in "The Park."

What is interesting about this album, is all the unexpected pieces you find in some of the songs, which may come across as jarring to some listeners (like the Mastodon sample at the end of "The Man Is Not His Song"), but it only adds to the multiple layers and nuances of the album.

Stand out songs for me include the rousing folky "Any Party" that has my favourite line of the album, "You know I’d leave any party for you," a proclamation you hope a friend (or secret crush) would say to you and vice versa. The delicate and sparse ballad, "Baby Be Simple," reminds me of an earlier song, “That’s Not What I say, Not What I Mean” off of the lesser known (debut) album, Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down). And the almost self-affirming sounding, "The Wind," whispering to us to "keep on the horizon."  

Feist just proves she doesn’t need big, catchy numbers to put out a stellar album. Admittedly, it took a few listens for the album to grow on me, but Pleasure is definitely a record worth listening to and investing in. Moreover, it only reveals that Feist isn’t an artist who can be boxed in to any one genre and is constantly reinventing herself and her music.

The author

Christina Wong

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