When I first picked up Canadian singer-songwriter Feist's breakthrough album, 2004's Let it Die, I thought it was perfectly pleasant background music. Her '70s-infused, lounge-y songs seemed perfect for a dinner party, or for playing faintly while I flipped through a magazine. Only the catchy "Mushaboom" really made me sit up and take notice, wedging itself in my head for days on end.
With her new album, The Reminder, Feist has delivered a set of songs that owe more to "Mushaboom" than to the rest of Let It Die — and that's a wonderful thing. Feist shines on the uptempo songs on The Reminder, doesn't lose my interest on the ballads, and stocks her tracks with the kind of arrangements that show she's grown as a musician since her last effort. For more on the album, and to hear my favorite track,
Sure, it's only May, but I'm already set to declare "I Feel It All" as my summer anthem, with rhythmically repetitive lyrics ("I love you more/I love you more/I don't know what I knew before") and a vibraphone-driven melody. The swingy rhythm of "My Moon My Man" showcases a chorus vaguely reminiscent of '70s soul, and "Sealion" makes up for a somewhat cheesy guitar solo with exuberant, gospel-style clapping. Somehow, all of those elements — plus horns! — come together perfectly on "1 2 3 4," the album's final uptempo track. Percussion plays a larger role on these danceable songs than it has in Feist's previous work, but it never overshadows her voice, which is crystal-clear and haunting as always.
The majority of the album's slower numbers work, too, with the richly layered choruses of "Honey Honey," the sweetly folky "Brandy Alexander" and the duet "How My Heart Behaves" being among the strongest. A few of the ballads still haven't grabbed me after several listens, but they're the exception, not the rule. Above all, The Reminder isn't content to stay in the background. It's an album that demands to be played.