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Feist achieves artistic and commercial success in ‘The Reminder’

James Costa | Thursday, April 24, 2008

Leslie Feist is doing pretty well. After years of singing with Broken Social Scene and a rather successful first solo record “Let It Die,” it’s clear that life is treating her pretty kindly. With her newest album “The Reminder,” Feist has achieved commercial success. Unlike on the standout track of “Let It Die,” “Mushaboom,” when Feist sang, “It may be years until the day my dreams will match up with my pay,” the need for more cash is surely no longer pressing on her mind.

However, to her likely dismay and the listener’s delight, her life still seems rife with the influences of heartbreak, solitude and the desire to both hold onto and let go of rapidly fading but still darkly penetrating memories.

With most of the tracks being written on the road between gigs all around the world, there is a distinct feeling of movement and displacement running through the album.

Without a place to hold onto and without a love to return to in the evening, Feist sings of a world that she finds much beauty in, except that it is a tragic and often tormented beauty.

In an interview on Pitchfork, she states, “You just never set roots; you take pleasure in simple conversations, because you know you’re not going to have much more than that.” Her words provide a strong sense of the emotions that come across on “The Reminder.” After touring for over a decade with By Divine Right and Broken Social Scene, Feist seems poised to welcome more than the transparent and shallowly comfortable simple conversations.

As for the actual music, there are really no bad tracks on the record. Each one pulses in its own unique nature, whether it be with the hopping and excited nature of “I Feel It All” to the simple and sad reflections heard on “The Park” to the dark confessional of “This Is How My Heart Behaves,” each song has a lovely spirit that buoys even the saddest and potentially most depressing lyrics with a musical resiliency to keep the beat going that often borders on brilliant.

The track that perhaps summarizes and explains “The Reminder” best is “The Park.” With Feist’s voice set against a simple acoustic guitar and the occasional flicker of a piano, the song encompasses the feelings of loneliness, heartbreak and regret that make “The Reminder” so wonderfully good. Feist sings of a woman lamenting the loss of a man, “It’s not him who comes across the sea to surprise you / Not him who’d know where in London to find you / The sadness so real that it populates the city and leaves you homeless again.” More lament than pop song, the listener is brought into a world that feels at once light and ungodly heavy with sad feelings and loss. Ending the song with a stirring use of her vocal abilities, Feist sings at the level of beautiful scream “Why did you think the boy could become / The man who would make you sure he was the one / My one.” With this last line, Feist shows herself to be the woman feeling the sorrow, making the experience at once more stirring and profound.

More than most other acts these days, Leslie Feist truly communicates the feeling that she understands the heartbreak of love. However, her always strong voice also communicates that she understands the reality of life; that the past is the past, and all memories of the past eventually pass. Yet as for finding beauty in the subtle passage of time, emotion and love is a wholly different task and one that inspires her to the music she shares on her timelessly stunning “The Reminder.”

Contact James Costa at jcosta1@nd.edu