As a music writer, before I review Feist’s new album Pleasure, I am contractually obligated to remind you that she released “1234” from 2007s The Reminder just over 10 years ago. The song was a phenomenon, and rightfully so. It is pleasure songified: equal measures bitter and sweet while retaining an almost otherworldly catchiness. There was the Apple commercial and lots of colors and yada yada yada. It was great, the whole album was great because it was Feist and Feist is a great songwriter. We know this because she wrote “1234.” But then she disappeared for a while, and returned with 2011s Metals. Unironically, it’s a much heavier feature. Where The Reminder only flirted with melancholy, Metals was a push and a shove in that direction. “How Come You Never Go There” was grounded, wax wings melted because “1234” flew too high. And then she disappeared again for another five years before releasing Pleasure.
Yes, Pleasure is a darker album than The Reminder or Metals. It hits even heavier marks than the latter, channeling the other famous counter Philip Glass at his most baroque. The title is ironic. It is bigger, longer, harder. As a songwriter, her solidity is nearly unmatched, although comparisons to the one and the only PJ Harvey should be made as an honorific. It sounds like Feist, and if you like Feist, you’ll like this album. But after here, words fail to describe what this album does well, or rather the music critics bag of tricks is only so deep. Like Father John Misty’s 2015, I Love You, Honeybear, a consensus was reached, and the critic’s job to describe what we all knew to be true ended up being a pissing contest of who had the best thesaurus.
In this way, we’ve all failed Feist.
Everytime a review started with a quick reminder of how successful “1234” truly was, we’ve quarantined Pleasure with an album it shares very little DNA with. Like Abbi Jacobson’s eyebrows, the albums are sisters and not twins; any comparison is tenuous. Pleasure is the difficult, but brilliant one. And I’m more than positive that Feist’s whole career trajectory since how successful one song became has been to never repeat that. Yet, as a music critic, all we can do is compare what came before to what we now see. There is no language to describe the new and transcendent.
Unfortunately for her, the more time passes, the more time Feist’s career becomes her Career, a retrospective rather than a current event, the way people were doing to Dylan before he released his best album at 60. No one can effectively assess “Love & Theft” without first talking about Blonde on Blonde. Both are great, just in completely different ways, and if I wasn’t born at a time when I purchased “Love & Theft” around the same time as Blonde on Blonde, I might not feel like the former has even a place next to the latter. For Feist’s future listeners, The Reminder will be the obvious album, but does that make it the best representative of her career? Or even her best album?
Pleasure is the lesson learned from getting too close to the sun, the heights being just too dizzying, the danger of melted wings. Pleasure is an exercise in what great expanses you can reach while staying on the ground, and what a great exercise it is. As much pleasure as I take in listening to The Reminder, I feel like I need to forget about it to take in Pleasure. It’s pretty clear that Feist already has.
Article: Christopher Gilson