After an illustrious career of collaborating and performing with numerous other artists – Peaches, Apostle of Hustle, Kings of Convenience and Broken Social Scene, to name a few – Canadian singer/songwriter Leslie Feist recorded her debut solo album, titled Let It Die.
Feist has an effortless grace in her voice; she’s able to deliver lyrical cadences, low, warm, husky phrases and earnest pleas with a smooth quality that is never oversold. While ethereal, she never sounds weak (like so many other breathy songstresses out there) and there is a tone in her music that makes listeners lean in as if hoping to hear all the beautiful secrets she has to offer.
Let It Die is a medley of many types of music, including indie-rock, bossa nova, jazz-blues and R&B – a full-on slew of stylistic hybrids. In “Gatekeeper” and “Mushaboom,” Feist immediately commands attention with playful melodies and rhythms, giving the songs an element of comfort and calm. “Leisure Suite” is sensual and promising, utilizing subtle dissonance, a chorus of snaps, hypnotic whispered vocals and lyrics that pull you irresistibly in, while never trying too hard. This earthy, rich sound is also found in “One Evening,” coupled with a classic R&B backbeat and Feist’s formidable range from deep, low notes to sweet, high ones. “Secret Heart” is a sweet, toe-tapping love letter that sets up “Inside and Out,” an inspired modernization of disco infused with funk, with Feist providing a backup chorus that is vaguely reminiscent of the girl groups of Motown. The chanteuse then charms with a bouncy mischievousness in “Tout Doucement,” accompanied with jazzy piano and cleverly plunked keys. The real genius lies in her conclusion, however, with the bittersweet “Now at Last,” a song that could hide in a collection of ballads from the ’40s without being recognized as contemporary. Feist adopts a sound that is just soft enough to portray sadness but still strong enough to lament her profound understanding of love and its disillusionments, singing, “When the spring is cold, / Where do robins go? / What makes winters lonely? / Now at last I know.”
With impeccable attention to detail, Feist has assembled an album that is complete, both in its artistry and in its originality. True, half of the songs are covers, but each one is infused with so much personality and passion that she effectively makes them her own. She pulls out all the stops in instrumental choices, never holding back on creativity or imagination. The final product is 11 tracks – no two belonging to exactly the same genre – that marry the style and integrity of the old with the experimental charm of the new and successfully encompass the full range of her abilities, which is no mean feat for one as talented and wholly un-replicable as Feist.
[Though she loves her rock ‘n’ roll, Anna Trumbo secretly longs to be one of Gladys Knight’s Pips.]