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Feist toys with styles and lyrics in latest release

Tae Andrews | Monday, October 1, 2007

Unless you happen to live under a rock, chances are you’ve seen and heard Feist’s new music video, “1234,” on the latest iPod Nano commercial from the creative marketing department at Apple.

Like the Apple corporation itself, Canadian singer/songwriter Leslie Feist offers an innovative approach as she establishes herself as a fresh face on the music scene with her latest album, “The Reminder.”

The talented and multidimensional Feist has an extensive palette which she uses to paint her musical numbers. But what makes her different as an artist is her clear, piercing voice, which ranges from a breathy purr to a wistful wail. At times she sounds like Alanis Morissette and other times her distinct vocals bring Cat Power or Dido to mind.

Capable of alternately speeding things up and slowing them down, Feist’s soulful sound has a variety of musical influences including gospel, some snazzy jazz and even touch of folk. Her tone ranges from the spirited to the subdued, and at times Feist even manages to put the “subtle” in “rhythm and blues.”

Feist makes good use of a variety of instruments including the piano, clanging twangy guitars, chimes, flutes and her hands. Many of the tracks on “The Reminder” inspire a lot of finger-snapping and toe-tapping as Feist leads her listeners on clap-alongs.

“The Reminder” serves as a case study in simplicity. Despite the many instruments Feist uses, her sound carries a minimalist feel to it and the album remains understated in tone. In addition to its New Age combination of jazz and other musical genres, the album also has a laid-back, melancholy feel to it as Feist’s sad but strong notes hang in the air. It’s the type of music you feel like you should listen to inside a jazz club or cocktail lounge.

The hip music video for “1234” features Feist decked out in a sharp blue dress engaged in some artsy choreographed dance with a slew of people dressed in different colors. This paint-by-the-numbers jam features some feel-good piano chords, folks guitar twanging and triumphant trumpeting. With lyrics such as “one two three four five six nine or ten / money can’t buy you the love you had back then,’ Feist sings an anti-material ode to the innocence of high school romance.

Some of the highlights on “The Reminder” include the following:

u”Brandy Alexander,” which features a slow, finger-snapping beat with pleasant piano chords.

u”The Limit to Your Love” carries an ominous, foreboding sound with a heavy, thumping tambourine beat overlaid with piano ivory and finished with a violin.

uOn “Past in Present,” Feist employs a vocal filter paired with a clap-along beat and makes good use of a broad variety of instruments including the piano, guitars, chimes, flutes and up-tempo hand-clapping and finger-snapping.

uWith lyrics such as “sea lion woman / dressed in black / wink at the man / then stab him in his back,” Feist sings a rather strange song about an apparently interesting woman in “Sealion.”

u”The Water” is a slow cocktail lounge with more chimes, soft acoustic guitar and delicate piano playing.

u”The Park” actually sounds like Feist recorded it in a park, as birds chirp behind her guitar playing and sings about nature.

With an amalgamation of both old and new schools of music, Feist has repackaged a variety of genres into a new, hip collection of songs. “The Reminder” is an album to remember.