A Feist Primer

On August 27, 2018

In September, members of Vinyl Me, Please Essentials will receive a brand new reissue of Feist’s 2004 sophomore album, Let It Die. The album, which has been out of print on vinyl for some time, has been freshly remastered, comes with a new cover and is on seafoam green heavyweight vinyl. Every part of the package was approved by Feist, and we’re super excited to present it as our Essentials Record of the Month this month. You can sign up to receive it here.

Are you new to Feist? We’ve got you covered with this primer on her discography:

As a teenager, Leslie Feist was the lead singer of a thrash metal band called Placebo. Her band won a local battle of the bands and were awarded an opening slot at Infest 1993, which featured the Ramones. A couple years later, she lost her voice for nine months after pushing her vocals too hard. Throughout those silent months, she learned how to play guitar, discovered a wide array of music that she calls her “escape to melody,” and started songwriting. She had to relearn how to sing in a manner that wouldn’t put her at risk of going mute. This is how the Feist we all know and love came to be.

If you’ve never listened to a full Feist album, you’ve definitely heard her music in movies and shows like 500 Days of Summer, Sesame Street, Girls and who could forget the iPod commercial? Michael Bay and Shia LeBouf have argued about playing Feist on the set of Transformers and Andre 3000 called “Mushaboom” his favorite song of 2004. She’s earned four Grammy nominations and has won both Juno Awards and a Polaris Award, but if you watch or read an interview with her it would be tough to know any of this. Feist remains modest, warm, rooted to her emotions and the world around her. This attitude is what keeps her albums honest and relevant.

Feist’s discography is made to fill all of life’s quiet moments with her soft voice, finely crafted lyrics and minimal composition. Whether that’s an early morning drive with the windows down or walking home late at night on an empty street, her voice has a way to make us all feel nostalgic yet optimistic. In this world we all experience loneliness, heartbreaks and love at some time or another — they’re just part of what makes life worth living and beautiful. Feist is here to remind us all of that. If you aren’t familiar with Feist or you want to revisit her discography, here are five albums — and quick background on Let It Die — to start with.

Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down) (1999)

Yup! There was an album before Let It Die, which was first released under her own imprint in 1999. It’s not available on any streaming service. It was reissued in 2012 and was available only on vinyl through her online store. She recorded Monarch after having developed a style of singing suitable for her healed vocal chords and was able to create this album through a grant from the Canadian government. On Monarch, you can hear a young Feist finding her way to Let It Die, where she landed on the sound we’re familiar with today.

Broken Social Scene: You Forgot It In People (2003)

You Forgot It In People is an indie classic. When it was released in 2003, the band was made up of 11 members, including Feist. In Stuart Berman’s This Book is Broken: A Broken Social Scene Story, it states that she sang vocals throughout the album after being advised against guitar by the bandleader, Kevin Shaw. In the book, Feist mentioned that during this time she associated herself with being a guitar player but she wasn’t necessarily a good guitar player. Shaw made a joke about it, so she re-assessed her role within the band. “You Forgot It in People explodes with song after song of endlessly replayable, perfect pop. For proof, pick virtually any track,” wrote Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber, back in 2003. It was later voted No. 27 on Pitchfork’s best albums from 2000-2004.

Let It Die (2004)

Before this record was created, Feist decided to travel throughout Europe for a year by herself, and by the end of her trip returned back to Canada with a completed album. Listeners can hear the loneliness and need for stability after traveling alone through foreign countries on Let It Die. On “Lonely Lonely” Feist sings, “Distance makes the heart go weak / So that the mouth can barely speak” and on “Mushaboom” she dreams of a country home and dressing the kids she doesn’t yet have. Despite what Feist has called the “homelessness” on this album, she sings about heartbreak and learning to love and open herself up again.

Many songs on this album range in genres from French pop to electronic to jazz, with cover songs from Blossom Dearie, the Bee Gees and Robert Stanton. However, the melody beautifully stitches every song together that by the end of the album one is consumed with the picture of a late night lounge tucked away on a Parisian street.

The Reminder (2007)

2007 was the year that we all had “1234” stuck in our heads because it was everywhere: coffee shops, iPod Nano commercials, Sesame Street, you name it. The Reminder set her on a bigger radar and grew her fanbase significantly. This album has Feist’s biggest hits and gained her a few Grammy nominations. It was through this album that she became an Indie Pop dream girl. Dancing to “I Feel It All” 10 years later around your living room still feels invigorating and fun. The timeless songs on this album are sure to win you over.

Metals (2011)

Metals is Feist’s most underrated album. As soon as the first song begins with loud drumming, it lets us know that this isn’t going to be a continuation of The Reminder. She didn’t go back into the studio to create a similar album just to make her new audience happy. In fact, she had lost her enthusiasm toward playing music and took a year off. In an interview with Pitchfork she said, “I did everything except wake up in a new town everyday. It was really boring. It's just life, you know?”

On Metals, she brings in more percussion, brass, string instruments and a back-up choir. She calls this album “a movement of humans.” The lyrics contain heavy metaphors on nature that revolve back to the theme of life itself. She drops her nostalgia-heavy songs to focus on the future, so take a moment to forget about the past and appreciate the people who surround you while listening to this album.

Pleasure (2017)

As you listen to Pleasure in your home, it’s hard to imagine that you’re boiling water in your kitchen rather than right in front of her stage. That’s primarily because the album was recorded almost entirely live. It’s her most intimate and minimal album yet. On Pleasure, Feist turns inward to share the sadness she felt after touring Metals. She took a few years off and spent her time building a deck for her country home and replacing the screen on her screen door. She told Rolling Stone, “I was having a bit of a difficult time in the last few years. I felt like I didn’t know anything. It was like a limbo between feeling something and knowing something. … I’m still in the middle of it, so it’s hard to talk about. The message of the album would be ‘Being lost is part of getting there,’ or something like that. I don’t know.” Many of us have experienced this, making it easy for Pleasure to take us in and nurture that emotion — specifically, in the last minute of “Any Party” when you spend time listening to her leave a crowded party and walk home alone to the sound of crickets and a car driving past her playing “Pleasure.” As humans, we sometimes need solitude in order to understand our own needs and emotions. Feist makes that clear by reminding us that pain is pleasure and pleasure is pain.

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Alex Gallegos

Alex Gallegos is the Social Media Manager at Vinyl Me, Please. Her hobbies include distance running, meticulously dissecting films and watching videos of famous pugs on Instagram.

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