Feist has spent the past decade largely out of the public eye, perpetually distancing herself from her unlikely 2007 pop breakthrough The Reminder, which spawned the top 10 hit “1234” and helped sell boatloads of iPods. Since then, she has released just one record, the artful 2011 LP Metals, and toured only briefly. But now, with her first album in six years, she’s reemerging with Pleasure, her most contemplative and cloistered work to date.
Recorded with longtime co-producer Mocky, these 11 tracks build off the meditative vibe that she explored on Metals. Yet she expands her craft even further by reinventing the possibilities of the singer-songwriter record. On Pleasure, she’s reduced the sing-alongs to a minimum, stripping her songs of almost any rock and roll abandon for a folk-based template that is beautifully minimalist and measured.
Yet Pleasure is hardly a breezy roots record. Instead, Feist achieves dynamism from more experimental sources: a monotone monologue from Jarvis Cocker on “Century,” an ensemble choir, a distorted lead vocal during racks like “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You,” and art-damaged guitar riffs throughout. Many of the songs are slow-building numbers that gradually swell to a heightened moment of release. But Feist is too gifted a songwriter to ever need to rely on a mere formula; each time, the payoff is delightfully unexpected.
The most tender moment on the album is this rollercoaster ode to ditching plans to spend time with your lover, even (or especially) if they still use a flip phone.
“A Man Is Not His Song”
This folk-soul piano ballad is a warm exploration — and a warning — of the ways in which musicians’ lives can so easily become defined by the music they make.