If we’ve learned nothing else from Broken Social Scene, it’s that the individual parts can sometimes be greater than the sum. You Forgot it In People was one of 2003’s most unpredictably innovative and enjoyable records, though since then, artists like Stars, Apostle of Hustle and Leslie Feist (you know, the one that sings on “Almost Crimes”) are pushing their music to even further limits of exploration and imagination. The last of the three, calling herself, simply, “Feist,” is, as of yet, the only one to land a major label record deal, and as such, her 2004 album Let It Die has been reissued on Interscope for a US audience.
While many of the bands of the external BSS family can somehow be sonically connected to the Canadian collective, Feist is a peculiar bird among the rest of them, opting to branch out into shades of jazz, disco and French pop. Let it Die is every bit as scattered and unpredictable as You Forgot it in People, without sounding anything like it. But it only figures, as Feist has worked on music with an impressively wide variety of artists including Gonzales, Kings of Convenience, By Divine Right and Peaches. But if any of these artists have played part in influencing Leslie Feist’s solo sound, it’s Kings of Convenience. The subtle, quieter tones of Let It Die are often reminiscent of the Norwegian duo, though Leslie has her finger in many pies on this set.
More sultry and soulful than the chaotic group sounds of Broken Social Scene, Let it Die genre-hops without becoming too incoherent. The brief opener “Gatekeeper” is beautiful and simple, not unlike Jolie Holland’s bluesy compositions. Yet, the first single, “Mushaboom,” is one part trip-hop to one part ragtime, and absolutely impossible not to like. It’s an instant highlight and one of my new favorite songs. The title track is something of a slow jam, however, while “One Evening” is a sexy disco pop tune, like a more laid-back Saint Etienne. But Feist switches things around again on the bossa nova-like “Leisure Suite.” Then comes along”When I Was A Young Girl,” rhythmic and powerful, with little more than bass and percussion backing Feist’s mighty pipes.
A series of covers can be found on the second half of the disc, including a harp-led version of Ron Sexsmith’s “Sacred Heart,” with some funky bass backing as well. And the album closes with the Bee Gees’ “Now at Last,” sung as if it were a Cole Porter tune. But between these tracks is a French tune called “Tout Doucement,” which sees Feist doing her best Edith Piaf, and doing it quite well.
On her first full-length under her own name, Leslie Feist does a fine job juggling styles and keeping the album, as a whole, together. And when you take into account all the different artists she’s collaborated with, it seems even more interesting that seemingly none of them rubbed off on this recording. Feist has finally come forth with a sound of her own, and what a sweet sound it is.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.