Leslie Feist is the kind of girl who can do it all. Her honey-coated voice puts easy listening lightweights like Norah Jones to shame, at once soothing and seducing the listener, luring every wayward ship toward a jagged and rocky, albeit sublime demise. She can also strum a chord or two, having gotten her start as a guitarist in By Divine Right. In addition to her musical talents, Feist has revealed herself to be quite the dancer, as the goofily choreographed and costumed video to “1,2,3,4” and happy-go-lucky routine in the “My Moon, My Man” clip solidify the Canadian songbird as a triple threat. What’s that, she’s not an actor you say? Sure enough, but take a look at any of her press photos and tell me that her sultry gaze isn’t a talent of its own.
Yes, that Feist is charming one. Her 2005 album Let It Die was an irresistible confection, from its delightful originals like Treble favorite “Mushaboom” to its sexy re-interpretations of Bee Gees and Ron Sexsmith tunes. As delightful a treat as that record was, her latest effort, The Reminder, is a new peak for the Canadian chanteuse, as her songwriting has never sounded so sharp. Feist still has a way with cleverly done covers, however, turning the Nina Simone and Shipp sisters standard “See-Line Woman” into a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, high energy blues breakdown.
The Reminder encompasses a more diverse range than Let It Die, yet much of that album’s jazz-influenced torch song style is still a prominent part of this set. “So Sorry,” which also features the talents of UK funk master Jamie Liddell, is such a warm and loveable ballad that it’s hard not to forgive the sorrowful lass, whatever she may have done. “The Water” is, appropriately enough, fluid in its haunting xylophone and standup bass interplay, a subtle and seductive highlight. Leslie channels Dusty Springfield on the slinky, soulful “Limit to Your Love.” Of the album’s more laid-back treats, “Honey Honey” is the most stunning. An old-timey sounding vocal hook loops beneath Feist’s foxy vocals, as a lone guitar chimes in during the chorus. It’s a bare arrangement, and a steamy one. “Food for the bees” though it may be, it’s twice as nourishing to one’s captive ears.
The album’s two dance-friendly singles do steal the show a bit, but with good reason. “My Moon, My Man” and “1,2,3,4” are two of the best songs in Feist’s repertoire. The former grooves on a solid 4/4 beat, a paradoxically ethereal and heavy song, with surreal lyrics depicting lover as exotic landscape. The latter, meanwhile, is a sing-songy romp, banjos plucking, pianos twinkling, and horns blaring all over the listener’s heartstrings. With such a happy-go-lucky sound and its embodiment of “teenage hopes alive at your door,” it’s easy to miss its downtrodden sentiments like “money can’t buy you back the love that you had then.” Both are contenders for single of the year, but “I Feel It All” isn’t too shabby either, the closest thing here to a good, old fashioned, fuzzy indie pop song, which injects a bit of giddy energy after the album’s serene and melancholy opener.
There is certainly something special about Leslie Feist. She hinted at it in Broken Social Scene’s “Almost Crimes,” gently revealed it on Let It Die, and now she’s gone ahead and flaunted it. With her winning smile, a suitcase full of amazing songs, and let’s not forget those great dance steps, she could win anyone over with just one note. Sure, she’s way out of your league, but that won’t stop The Reminder from escalating a little crush into full-blown infatuation.
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.