Feist - Multitudes (Clear Vinyl)

Regular price $ 40.99

With her albums separated by anywhere from three to six years, it took a couple decades for Leslie Feist to establish that, while her songwriting tendencies show an affection for complex bossa progressions as well as breezy campfire folk, she never really repeats herself. The elegant Let It Die (2004) effortlessly mingled bossa nova, jazz-pop, folk, and rock; The Reminder (2007), while also diverse, is memorable for its jingle-like anthems; Metals (2011) took a moodier, atmospheric route; and the more assertive Pleasure (2017) seemed to relish being unsteady and unpredictable. Following in 2023, Multitudes changes approach again, finding Feist at easily her most direct and poignant to date -- and that's saying something -- on a set of songs developed during a run of intimate live shows (also called Multitudes) performed in the round in 2021 and 2022. The songs were inspired by major life events including adopting a baby, the death of her father, and the onset of a worldwide pandemic. In addition to its themes of life, love, and loss, Multitudes has an experimental bent that only amplifies its profundity alongside exquisite production (recording, mixing, mastering) that gives weight to every sound. It was tracked in a custom-built home studio in Northern California just weeks before its release, with Feist, Mocky, Robbie Lackritz, Blake Mills, and (filmmaker) Mike Mills having a hand in production.

Multitudes opens with "In Lightning," one of its few moments of bombast. Stomping drums and full-throated harmony vocals distinguish the tense, tuneful entry, as do its syncopated, sometimes onomatopoeic lyrics. It later introduces strings and more striking instruments like synth recorders in addition to its flawed and interrupted closing harmonies. The album then moves into a series of emotive quasi-acoustic ballads with fat, tactile plucks and strums and brittle, lilting vocals as she takes on heavier thoughts and remembrances. Among these are the musically lovely and lyrically devastating "Love Who We Are Meant To" ("Sometimes we don't get to") and the more head-bobbing, campfire-like "Hiding Out in the Open," which is nonetheless made alien by widescreen harmonies, warped vocal editing, and faint, spacy synths. That song concludes that "Love is not a thing you try to do/It wants to be the thing compelling you/To be you." Later, "I Took All of My Rings Off" finds her opening the window "to let in the wind and get rid of what might have been," and the quasi-classical "Of Womankind," which quotes Homer's The Odyssey, plays out as an artful lament replete with spoke-sung passages, rich vocal harmonies, and fluttering Romantic melodicism. With an intro not unlike Bowie's "Heroes," "Borrow Trouble" surprises by greatly widening the audioscape with its buzzing orchestral-rock atmosphere, including a baritone sax solo and screams. Ending with a track called "Song for Sad Friends" that acknowledges that it's appropriate to feel bad in these times, perhaps the most impressive thing about Multitudes is that virtually any of its 12 songs would be showstoppers in less consummate company.

1 In Lightning 3:25
2 Forever Before 5:17
3 Love Who We Are Meant To 3:55
4 Hiding Out in the Open 3:21
5 The Redwing 3:18
6 I Took All of My Rings Off 3:56
7 Of Womankind 3:52
8 Become the Earth 4:17
9 Borrow Trouble 4:05
10 Martyr Moves 3:25
11 Calling All the Gods 3:49
12 Song for Sad Friends 3:49