Four years ago, Leslie Feist—who performs under her last name—released The Reminder. Its hit single “1234″ (remember the whimsical music video that accompanied it?) became so pervasive that the snippet used in Apple’s iPod Nano commercial might still be stuck in your head.
The song hit number eight on the Billboard singles charts and helped make The Reminder iTunes’ best-selling album of 2007. It even earned Feist a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. (She lost to Amy Winehouse). But the thing was, Feist wasn’t really very “new,” not that that the Grammys are ever interested in making that distinction. The now 35-year-old Canadian had been a fixture of the indie music scene since the late 1990s, when she played in several bands and toured with punk-rapper Peaches. She was also an occasional member of the critically lauded rock collective Broken Social Scene and, at the time of her Grammy nomination, had several albums to her name, one of which, 2004′s Let it Die, had been played on a seemingly endless loop at Starbucks. The Reminder wasn’t her arrival; it was actually a departure. Similarly, her new album Metals isn’t a follow-up, but a progression.
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It took Feist nearly two years to adjust to The Reminder‘s success and a while longer to get back into the studio. Whatever she did during that time worked; Metals’ 12 meticulously written songs drift along lightly but confidently, as if Feist had all the time in the world to write them. And in a way, she did, ditching a typical studio for a barn in Big Sur, California. It doesn’t attempt to match—much less outdo—its more poppy predecessor, and in terms of sheer commercial success it probably won’t. But Feist has always been a reluctant pop star. “How Come You Never Go There,” the album’s first single, is the closest she comes to writing another crowd pleaser. But it’s darker, slower, and more brooding—the broken-hearted, lonesome sequel to “1234″s chipper adoration. It probably won’t be used to sell you anything.
Metals has some moments of intensity—the staccato strings in “A Commotion” are downright combative— but for the most part, it is a somber, largely acoustic album full of quiet melodies. This fall, you might hear it played at dinner parties or in quiet restaurants. Your girlfriend (or sensitive boyfriend) will probably like it. And the ballad “Bittersweet Melodies” is so charming that if anyone ever films a sequel to 500 Days of Summer, they need to put it on the soundtrack. “[I] can’t go back, I can’t go on,” she sings on it, her voice as soft as a lullaby. “Both of us singing that same old song.” Luckily for us, Feist has finally written some new ones.
Listen to “How Come You Never Go There” below.