This isn't a full review, as I've not heard the whole album yet, but I've spent part of this evening listening to a sampler of what looks to be an outstanding second album from Feist. The slow burning popularity of debut 'Let It Die', at least in part due to the appearance of 'Mushaboom' in an ubiquitous advert (but can I remember what the hell it was advertising? No!), might have paved the way for Feist to drift comfortably into the middle of the road.
The opening track on the sampler, and the album's first single ('My Moon My Man'), suggests otherwise. It's pure pop - with its stomping pianos and sultry, expressive vocals. Simultaneously groovy, sexy and seductive, it's one of the the finest singles of the year so far. It also has an absolutely irresistible twangy guitar break. Collaborating with Gonzales, Jamie Lidell and Mocky on this album has predictably directed Feist towards more sophisticated textures and arrangements - much as I like Broken Social Scene, this is about as far away from their sound as it's possible to get.
The five tracks on this disc neatly encapsulate the diversity at the heart of 'The Reminder' - each track takes a radically different approach, but coherence is achieved through the distinctive tones of Feist's vocals and the emphasis on melody. '1234' is also brilliant - another pure pop song for sure, but one that dares to feature banjo and brass without drifting into folk pastiche. It sounds fresh and exciting, and also features some splendid honky tonk piano (presumably from the talented Gonzales).
'Sealion' built on a sample of a Nina Simone chant, has relentless rhythmic drive and an infectious energy that is sure to be a highlight of this month's live shows. It's propelled by layered handclaps, vocals and, again, some superb twangy guitar playing. 'I Feel It All' is similarly joyous, but perhaps a little more conventional in its arrangement, characterised more by strumming guitars this time. It's the layering of the vocals that works superbly here, and when they are set against the delicate chime of a glockenspiel, the effect is particularly charming. The dreamy romanticism of 'The Park', apparently inspired by London's open spaces, is enchanting and its acoustic rustles and plucks work a subtle, spacey magic. I'm not entirely convinced by the birdsong backdrop though - that seems like a rather obvious and unnecessary flourish.
Feist has juxtaposed a vast array of influences with real panache here, creating an amalgam that sounds exciting and intriguing, all dominated by her vocals, which are stronger and more creative here than on 'Let It Die'. Sadly, this sampler does not reveal whether there are any inspired interpretations to rival her take on The Bee Gees 'Inside and Out' or Ron Sexsmith's 'Secret Heart'. It's clear, however, that she has more than enough inspiration of her own this time around. Slowly but surely, Leslie Feist seems to be drifting into serious artistic and creative territory - there's plenty of evidence here to suggest that she could become as singular and unusual a female talent as Bjork. Can't wait for the Shepherd's Bush Empire show now!