Saturday, September 12, 2009
#110. 'Make a home from a rented house'
You could probably consider this part two of my ongoing series on artists that Broken Social Scene opened me up to. Like Metric's Emily Haines, Leslie Feist was among the rotating cast of vocalists that BSS had moving through their ranks, and while her defining moment with the collective didn't come until their self titled third album in 2005 her presence on You Forgot It in People did enough to get me excited for anything of hers that I could come across. She wasn't a standout in the way that Haines was on "Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl," but given that she was on my early favorite from the disc ("Almost Crimes") I was just as aware that she was someone I'd want to watch out for.
Of course her and Haines couldn't have been farther apart vocally. Haines was child-like and vulnerable while Feist was much brasher, more confident and strong in her voice. It could have just been the songs they were singing, but Feist seemed like she was having a lot more fun while singing, a quality that carried through to her solo endeavors and made them all but irresistible to my ears. I remember that Let It Die was among my favorite releases of 2004 in the year's early stages mostly for the sense of fun that Feist brought to even the most low-key numbers, not in a 'she so quirky' way but just in that I got the sense that she was really enjoying herself on the record. That's not unique to her of course, but something about her passion just hooked me in. I'm a bit less keen on the album nowadays, still enjoy it but don't love it I guess, but it still strikes me as a great pop record.
While time hasn't been kind to Let It Die as a whole, if anything my love for "Mushaboom" has grown in the five years since I first heard it. Feist was one of those artists where I had a hard time deciding which single to include given that five of her six singles were worthy of inclusion, but "Mushaboom" snuck ahead of the others in the final stages of the list by simply embodying the sense of fun that all her best moments display in a much more natural way. You could argue that "I Feel It All" is more fully realized, "1234" is catchier, "Inside and Out" is a better display of her vocals and "My Moon My Man" is just plain sexier ,and you'd be right on most of those counts, but "Mushaboom" just seems so much more effortless than the others. There's also the fact that unlike most other Feist songs I can't see any other female indie-popster tackling this without making it too twee or too quirky for its own good. Feist has this way about her that makes even her most theoretically annoying songs work by virtue of just how genuine she comes across. There's no artifice here, at least no visible artifice.
It also helps that the musical accompaniment is among the most interesting in the Feist catalog. The arrangement is in a constant state of flux, instruments come and go with ease and the new sounds that occur keep the light, bouncy air that the initial instrumental sets up. It's busy yet uncluttered, like something you might hear Phil Elvrum producing albeit in a much folksier locale than his projects. But that's all secondary to the command Feist has over the track. I saw her on TV performing this on nothing but an acoustic guitar and it was still utterly captivating without the additional bells and whistles attendant to the album version. As much as those accoutrements make the track interesting they wouldn't amount to much if it weren't such a great song at its base.
Coming up tomorrow: A relationship too sad to be documented in a country song.