Let it begin

Sep 7, 2005 at 12:00 am

Feist is crazy. In September alone she’ll sashay through Detroit, Philly and New York City, Osaka, Tokyo and Sydney. There’s a quick pirouette in Melbourne, but she’s back in her native Canada before you know it, making the kids in Saskatoon blush. Then it’s back to the United States, where she tours with old pals Broken Social Scene before hooking up with weep-rocker Bright Eyes at the end of this year. There she goes; turn the page.

All of this globetrotting is in support of Let It Die, Feist’s acclaimed mélange of chanteuse pop and bittersweet indie rock that finally found domestic shores this past May through Interscope’s subsidiary, Cherry Tree. Before that, it had only been available in Europe and Canada, where it was released by taste-making Toronto label Arts & Crafts in 2004.

At the time, Feist drew fawning comparisons to Nina Simone and Jane Birkin, as well as polite indie outfits like Kings of Convenience or the aforementioned Broken Social Scene, two groups she’d also contributed vocals to in the past. Of course, people also liked to point out how Feist had once roomed with infamous prurience diva Peaches, so there was some fun controversy too.

But as she makes her way around America, it’s clear Feist is poised to become the next iPod sensation, the must-download hit of hazy autumn mornings and a heroine to anyone disillusioned by Liz Phair’s youth movement. The artfully balanced Let It Die has something for everyone. It’s not too insular, nor is it blatantly accessible; at its center is a woman whose vocals curl around your ears like a wispy cartoon Coco Chanel. It’s music that pauses between austere and inviting, flirting with experimentalism but never enough to alienate Rob Thomas fans. Yes, Feist just might be the fifth element that unlocks the mystery inside safe pop.

Let It Die endears itself quickly, mostly because it meanders between styles and influences. On the title track, Feist sings about the saddest part of a broken heart. Suddenly it’s easy to smile wanly over its broken ballad backgrounds, remembering some George Michael night when you sang along tearfully to the maudlin grace of “One More Try.” Feist is a little more upbeat on songs like “Gatekeeper” and “Mushaboom,” though she still sounds like she’s breaking up with someone. Gentle keys tinge the dry shuffle of an acoustic guitar in the former, while the latter indeed suggests a 21st century update of those sly French pop ditties sung by Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. Later, Feist adopts a throaty slither for the charmingly salacious “Leisure Suite.” And when she does, you start to think: Maybe she has more in common with Peaches than just a shared flat in Paris?

Let It Die is also split evenly between Feist originals and some well-chosen cover songs, and nothing says smash hit on the iTunes playlist like a vibrant and slinky version of the 1979 Bee Gees soft rock gem “Love You Inside Out.” (Search for “Inside and Out” — that’s what Feist renames it.)

Reports from past Feist live shows have her breaking into impromptu duets with audience members, constructing instant songs by looping tracks of her vocals and guitar, and detouring gracefully from the Let It Die material into even more covers.

She’s built to last, this one, and sullen indie boys will get with white girls from Novi when Feist goes ahead and gives them the ooh-la-la.


Friday, Sept. 9, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-544-3030. Great Lakes Swimmers to open.

Johnny Loftus is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]