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Hearing a Breakthrough: Feist's 'Reminder'


Music insiders say Canadian songwriter and singer Leslie Feist has arrived. Even before the release of her new CD this week, Feist was chosen by Interscope Records, the label of U2 and Timbaland to launch its cherry tree imprint. The resulting album won her two Juno Awards in 2005, that's Canada's version of the Grammy's. Now with the new CD called "The Reminder," reviewer Oliver Wang joins the chorus of praise.

(Soundbite of song, "So Sorry")

Ms. LESLIE FEIST (Singer): (Singing) I'm sorry, two words I always say after you're gone.

OLIVER WANG: With her airy gossamer sound, Feist would seem most appropriate for headphone listening, but I've always like her tunes best while driving through Los Angeles. Her songs don't immediately suggest classic L.A. car music. They hardly sparkle with the sunshine pop of the Beach Boys or the gleaming funk of Dr. Dre, but Feist's pleasant brand of melancholy strikes the right mood for winding in (Unintelligible) city, feeling comfortably lost and alone.

(Soundbite of song, "1,2,3,4")

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) One, two, three, four tell me that you love me more. Sleepless long night says what my use is for. Ooh, teenage hopes are alive at your door, left you with nothing but they want some more. Ooh, oh, oh, you're changing your heart. Ooh, oh, oh, you know who you are.

WANG: Since the late 1990s, Feist has become a journey woman in the indie rock world. She got her start with a high school punk band then graduated to partner with the loose collective of Canadian musicians known as Broken Social Scene and most unexpectedly, the electro-rock rapper, Peaches.

(Soundbite of music)

PEACHES (Singer): (Singing) To get it, got to give it. To get it, got to give it. Get it?

WANG: With "Reminder," Feist's found her own voice in more ways than one.

(Soundbite of song, "Limit to Your Love")

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) There's a limit to your love, like a waterfall in slow motion.

WANG: Her punk years punished her vocal chord, leaving Feist with a small brittle voice. But as it turns out, such frailty is well suited for bittersweet love songs about missed connections and doomed romances. At times, producer Gonzales spins the vocals even further creating a low-fi effect that mimics the sound of AM radio, one of those stations that's only static until you clear the mountain(ph).

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) It's got a (Unintelligible).

WANG: "Reminder" doesn't share the cosmopolitan qualities of her previous album "Let It Die," with its blend of breezy French pop, Bossa Nova and Death to Disco. Despite being recorded in a mansion outside Paris, "Reminder's" musical dialects mostly come from this side of the Atlantic. There are folksy, acoustic laments, minor key ballads and a few juke-joints (Unintelligible).

Feist even updates "Sea Lion Woman," a song best known through Nina Simone's version. Here it becomes a club-friendly track of pulsing synthesizers and hand-clapping soul.

(Soundbite of song, "Sea Lion Woman")

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) Sea lion woman. Sea lion. She drank coffee. Sea lion. She drank tea. Sea lion. And he gamble lie. Sea lion.

WANG: In expanding an arguably improving on style first tested on "Let It Die," Feist seems becoming into her own feistiness, whether pinning downhearted confessionals or belting out hunky tonk stumpers(ph), it's great pop music to get lost in or if you're like me, driving without direction, a soundtrack to get lost to.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) Ooh, I'll be the one who'll break my heart.

BLOCK: Oliver Wang reviewing the CD "The Reminder" from Leslie Feist. He writes about music for the Oakland Tribune and Los Angeles Times.

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Oliver Wang is an culture writer, scholar, and DJ based in Los Angeles. He's the author of Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews of the San Francisco Bay Area and a professor of sociology at CSU-Long Beach. He's the creator of the audioblog and co-host of the album appreciation podcast, Heat Rocks.