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Don’t try to pin down Feist to just one genre

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Some singers are just meant to be stars. Take Leslie Feist. This Canadian singer got her start when her punk band won a high school battle of the bands contest and found themselves opening for the Ramones at an outdoor festival. Not a bad way to start a career. She went on to collaborate with former roommate Peaches — Feist went under the name Bitch Lap-Lap and wore a sock puppet and a Cuban aerobics outfit. She also sang with Chilly Gonzalez and the Broken Social Scene. This is all to say that Feist enjoys variety — and nowhere is that more evident than on her new CD “Let it Die.”

It’s almost as if you get to take a little journey with her. You visit a cigarette-smoke filled lounge with a song like “Gatekeeper” then you can continue on to a friend-filled car ride for the wanderlust of “Mushaboom,” before stopping at the disco for “Inside Out” — a cover of the Bee Gees disco hit — and a Parisian salon for the French language, “Tout Dounement.”

The mood here is also varied. Fellow Indie Study writer Greg Perez and I have shared a laugh about how many breakup albums there are — but here Feist explores a variety of topics. “Mushaboom,” for example, talks about the transitory nature of the average city dweller. “But in the meantime,” she sings, “I’ve got it hard / Second floor living without a yard /  It may be years until the day / my dreams will match up with my pay.” Who among us can’t relate to that sentiment?

This is not to say that she doesn’t sing about love and loss. One of my favorite tunes on the CD is the rather wrenching, “Lonely Lonely,” in which she sings “Distance makes the heart grow weak / So that the mouth can barely speak.” This song is also a great example of how she can vary her vocal style. While, some of the songs are breathy and chanteuse-like, here she really uses the full power of her voice and sings out the pain expressed by the song’s lyrics. It was so startling the first time I heard it that I completely stopped everything else I was doing just to listen.

Feist only wrote five of the songs on the CD but there some really interesting covers here. Beyond that Bee Gees classic, there’s also the sweet Ron Sexsmith song, “Secret Heart,” which shows all the trepidation we enter relationships with. And there’s also a cover of 1940’s vocalist Dick Haymes’ “Now at Last” — a delicate closer to the CD. I do wish there were more of her own tunes on the CD  — but the amount of time she spends collaborating with other artists may limit her writing time.

Give Feist a listen. She’ll take you on a fun, sad, silly musical journey. She’s one of those artists, who when people ask me, “What’s she like?” I can only answer, “It really depends on the song she’s singing.” And believe me, that’s a compliment.

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