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For nearly a decade, Leslie Feist did not stop moving. Her 2004 album Let It Die led right into 2007’s The Reminder, which earned her four Grammy nominations, six Juno wins, the Shortlist Music Prize, and the opportunity to teach Muppets to count on Sesame Street. She made her Saturday Night Live debut and toured the world. She covered an album with Beck, watched Stephen Colbert shimmy in a sequined “1234” jumpsuit, and made a documentary about recording The Reminder. And then, finally, after the seventh year, Feist rested.

“There’s a lot of squeezing yourself out on tour,” she says. “In the downtime afterwards I was sponging – I was trying to absorb as much as I put out for seven years.” She watched Fellini films and read poetry as her creative batteries juiced up again. “I was being still and trying to learn how to be quiet and remember that silence isn’t aggressive,” she adds. “Sometimes after being in a lot of noise and movement, silence and stillness can seem completely terrifying.”

When Feist was ready to make music again, she had very different ideas about how to shatter the quiet. “I played so many shows with such care, I really want to be loud again,” she says, referring to her early days as a guitarist in punk and rock bands. She started writing in the spring of 2010 and met up with her longtime collaborators Chilly Gonzalez and Mocky the following January to arrange 12 songs that would become her fourth studio album, Metals. The trio spent a frigid month in Toronto “Trying to sound like we had played together as long as we’d known each other collectively, around 50 years,” then decamped for California’s rugged Big Sur to transform “audio photographs” into finished songs.

“You just know you are somewhere super-potent and untouched in Big Sur,” Feist says. “And it has this literary tradition, with Henry Miller, Anais Nin, and John Steinbeck having lived there. We truly found a room perched on that edge between earth and sea, a giant empty space that this woman usually paints in. No music had ever been made there.”

The songs Feist and her band – Gonzales, Mocky, percussionist Dean Stone, and keyboard whiz Brian LeBarton – laid down with producer Valgeir Siggurdsson over two and a half weeks in February plumb different emotional paths than her previous work. “Time passes, shit goes down, and then it resolves. Something gets wounded and it heals,” she muses. “I feel a little bit more like a narrator. Rather than being like, here’s my truth, it’s like, here’s something I think is just true.”

Metals is not a reaction to The Reminder, but Feist did learn a few lessons playing her acclaimed album’s songs night after night. “In [The Reminder’s] ‘I Feel It All,’ to have a chorus be, ‘Ooh I’ll be the one who’ll break my heart/I’ll be the one to hold the gun’ – you sing that 300 times and eventually the universe listens. Okay, sure, we can do that for you. So this time I wanted to cast the spell 300 times saying something that’s more of an observation about human nature.”

Metals songs like “The Bad in Each Other” and “Get It Wrong, Get It Right” are forthright, dry-eyed tunes about heart mending, not heart rending. “A Commotion” bristles with tense energy, while “How Come You Never Go There” slips along to a jazzy groove. “It’s a lot more flying off the handle and chaos and noise than I had before,” Feist says. “I allowed for mistakes more than I ever have. But what’s also in there is more brambles. It was a little bit about un-simplifying things. We were sort of testing the air, like a sea captain licks his finger to see which way the wind is coming from. It was less Brill Building and more naturalistic.”

Some of the results wound up being more intimate portraits of relationships, like “Get It Wrong, Get It Right,” which Feist describes as “a slideshow of a season in a place and a dynamic between two people.” But more often she found herself gravitating to the universal. “What’s that expression: We hold these truths to be self-evident,” she muses. “After everything settles there’s really no blame to be laid in a lot of these situations. People are being their true selves, everybody is in their story trying to get to the next chapter.”

Brainstorming along those lines helped lead her to the album title Metals. “I was thinking about a giant force of elemental truth and how people change things,” Feist explains. “We try to harness most things in nature, and we have managed to manipulate metal. The raw material is one thing and what the minds of men turned it into is a completely other thing. Also the word ‘mettle,’ a man proves his mettle by how he manages difficult times.”

Sonically, Feist and her tight-knit crew strove to forge a connection between the future and the past. “We fancied we were developing a modern ancient genre,” she says. “There’s a bunch of human yelling into the air together, all this group singing that’s all over the record, that’s sort of a little ancient. Then Brian LeBarton has access to these ultra modern, futuristic sounds. He has a way of making a celeste completely futuristic.”

Ultimately, Metals’ aesthetic has a deliberate patience and natural beauty that echoes Feist’s approach to writing the album overall. “I read a National Geographic article about soil and modern farming,” she says. “The point is for food to grow, the point isn’t for it to grow all at once and never grow again. Soil does its job, but unless you let it rest it can’t regenerate its own minerals and do the same thing again. You just have to let it lay there under the sun, dry out, get rained on and be still a little while.” That she did. And now she’s back.

Videos & Press
  • How Come You Never Go There

  • Kevin Drew and Feist Get Dance Lessons From Zach Galifianakis in Drew’s “You in Your Were” Video

    [Pitchfork] Every music video could do with a bit of dancing, right? But as anyone who’s watched “Making the Band” knows, fancy footwork is tough business. So Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew recruited an expert to assist in his video for the Feist-featuring Darlings cut “You in Your Were”. Directed by by Samir Rehem – […]

  • Listen to Feist cover Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” with Timber Timbre

    [Consequence of Sound] By Michelle Geslani The new Peter Gabriel covers compilation, And I’ll Scratch Yours, boasts renditions by a host of artists like David Byrne, Bon Iver, and Paul Simon. Over the weekend, we heard Arcade Fire’s take on “Games Without Frontiers”, and now comes Feist’s contribution of “Don’t Give Up”. Gabriel’s 1986 original […]

  • Watch Broken Social Scene and Feist play “Almost Crimes” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon!

  • Broken Social Scene and Feist to Play “Fallon”

    [Pitchfork] June 1, 2013 By Evan Minsker Band to play all of You Forgot It in People at Field Trip Music & Arts Festival The Field Trip Music & Arts Festival on June 8 at Toronto’s Fort York and Garrison Common will feature performances from Broken Social Scene and Feist. And two days earlier, Thursday, […]

  • Feist Performs as Hologram in Three Cities at Once

    [Pitchfork] April 26, 2013 By Carrie Battan 2012 is calling, threatening to make performance holograms a thing again! Last night, Feist “performed” in three different Canadian cities at once– Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal– as a hologram, Exclaim! reports. It was part of a series of launch parties for the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone. “To get […]

  • FIRST LISTEN: Feist’s New Album, ‘Metals’

    [SPIN] by Kevin O’Donnell It’s been four years since Leslie Feist broke through with her fourth solo album The Reminder, which scored four Grammy nominations, and her hit single, “1234,” which helped sell boatloads of iPod Nanos, thanks to that ubiquitous Apple commercial. She’s remained relatively low-key after wrapping up a grueling world tour in […]

  • A Voice of Gray Moods, Joined by 100 Whistlers

    [NY Times] Feist spent 90 minutes on Wednesday night believing out loud that a pop concert can be a ritual of happenstance magic. She did what she could to provoke it, and in the end she got it, although there were some less magical parts to endure first. She is a stand-alone engine surrounded by […]

  • Feist played BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House (pics, review)

    [Brooklyn Vegan] Feist played the Howard Gilman Opera House at BAM Wednesday night (11/2). It was the show that needed quadruple confirmation back in August. It was her first proper New York show since 2008, though a lucky few caught her play a surprise show in crypt in Harlem exactly one month ago. After a […]

  • Feist Serves up a Feisty Set in Brooklyn

    [Wall Street Journal Blog] Last night at the BAM Opera House in Brooklyn, New York, singer-songwriter Leslie Feist performed as if she were eager to distance herself and her new music from any misconceptions based on past recordings. On both the disk and in concert, she rejects the mantle of pop star that was granted […]

  • Live Review: Feist at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre (11/4)

    [Consequence of Sound] BY MEGAN RITT Leslie Feist gave Chicago concertgoers a night of peaceful indie rock on Friday. Playing to a sold-out crowd at the Riv (including Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a box seat), Feist came on after what might be described charitably as a “weird” set from The Happiness Project. The crowd was […]

  • Concert review: Feist at the Riviera

    [Chicago Tribune] “Let it Die” isn’t exactly the typical rousing set-closer one would expect from a performer who’s become a star in recent years, prominent enough to draw a healthy crowd to the Riv, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife, Amy. But this was no ordinary concert, as the Toronto singer-songwriter shook up her […]

  • The Bounty of Solitude

    [New York Times] By JON PARELES LESLIE FEIST, the songwriter who records as Feist, led a visitor up a winding trail to a hilltop with expansive views of treetops and a reservoir. Bounding ahead were her two mongrel dogs: the white Sasha, described by her owner as “hyperemotional, sometimes gets depressed,” and the black Bentley, […]

  • Pitchfork Interview: Feist

    [Pitchfork] By Ryan Dombal Before 2007’s The Reminder and its longshot hit “1234”, Leslie Feist was largely known as the brunette who did “Mushaboom” or one of the female singers in Broken Social Scene, if she was known at all. Things changed. The indie artist who grew up screaming and shouting in punk bands was […]

  • #1 FEIST “Metals”:: New York Times

    [NY Times] By JON PARELES “Metals” (Cherrytree/Interscope) Leslie Feist’s songs of heartache, solitude and eventual solace are both handmade and subtly sophisticated on “Metals.” She traded pop gloss for pensive, lingeringly unresolved melodies and arrangements that crest unexpectedly from within, with her own taut electric guitar and apparitions of horns and voices summoning the tensions […]

  • ROBERT EVERETT-GREEN’S PICKS #1 Album of the Year

    [The Globe and Mail] by Robert Everett Success hasn’t insulated Feist from the sharp edges of life. This lean and lonesome record stokes a slow-burning fire through 12 tough-minded songs about the people we lose, and the things that rot away as we cling to them.

  • Feist – “How Come You Never Go There”

    [Stereogum] Feist’s followup to the coffee shop-conquering LP The Reminder is called Metals. That’s a somewhat less café baiting title, though the only thing really metal about the warm, tenderly smokey lead single “How Come You Never Go There” is how it’s probably going to help the record go Gold or Platinum when everyone who […]

  • Four Years After ‘1234,’ Feist Returns With Raw Follow-Up

    [Rolling Stone] by MONICA HERRERA The last time Feist recorded an album, it was in a 19th-century French manor house with the windows open and the birds singing. For the follow-up, she found an even mellower spot, building a studio in a converted barn in the California hippie-chic enclave of Big Sur. (Watch an exclusive […]

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