When I heard about Feist’s new album, Metals (released October 4), I couldn’t believe it had been four years since her last, The Reminder. Typically summed up as background music with an ultra-marketable single (“1234” is the catchiest of all the featured songs in those Apple iPod commercials, which is saying something), that album brought the kind of attention that can make an artist rich and discontent. Feist went on an 18-month hiatus after touring on that record, and then returned to songwriting and recording for Metals.
Thankfully, Feist has not emerged to face her critics and/or commercial success. She has opted to simply move past all of that. Metals is not reactionary, thankfully—no dreary, burdensome “I don’t have to be so pop!” poison that so many self-conscious artists consume. Feist was an accomplished artist before The Reminder, and relegating her work to the coffeehouse has never been appropriate. The reviews may still center on how un-background-ish Metals sounds, but the real story is how earnest and fun Feist still is.
There is a rawer edge to this album, as Feist leans less on disco-ish production in favor of a more throwback rock-and-roll sound. Metals begins with an outstanding one-two punch, with the makes-you-want-to-stomp-along “The Bad in Each Other” and “Graveyard,” a strong dose of hope and faith of resurrecting proportions. “How Come You Never Go There” is familiar, effortlessly delightful territory, and “A Commotion” caps the album’s energetic first five tracks.
The pace slows for most of the rest of the album, but there is no letdown in quality. A low-fi feel accompanies Feist’s voice—a truly unique blend of ancient, intimate, and cutting character. But there’s nothing rudimentary about the inventive arrangement of strings, vocals, clapping, and rhythms throughout.
The artist who has written songs like “It’s Cool to Love Your Family” has not lost any sincerity. Listening to “Bittersweet Melodies,” you can’t help but yearn along with Feist, who “Can’t go back/Can’t go on.” And the chorus in “Comfort Me” is packed with an army of singers who loyally follow Feist’s lead, obviously having a lot of fun. Where Metals eclipses Feist’s previous heights is in “Anti-Pioneer.” This song manages to capture the bummer so many feel today in reaction to a mixed bag of post-nationalism, using the blues as a vehicle to croon about how our "flag changes colors" .