Since PJ Harvey decided to go on a humanitarian mission armed with feathers and an autoharp there’s been a gap in indie rock for a more feral style of female voice. Step forward Leslie Feist who on her new album Pleasure evolves her sound to create something almost primal in its simple power.
The album starts with a crackle of guitar and ethereal vocals – this is what we have come to expect from Feist – but as the song builds her voice goes deeper and the music begins to growl. An uneasy atmosphere is created in the opening songs, which could be unnerving but there is, ahem, pleasure here in just letting the unexpected unfurl.
In Any Party Feist sings over the sound of wailing guitars – like she’s trying to be noticed in a crowded room. But it’s impossible to hide the strength of the song writing and by the end the party choir joins in. This leads into ‘A Man is Not His Song’ which explicitly tells us that melody and lyrics aren’t everything. I guess sometimes you need loud heavy metal to show how you feel (nice shout out to her pals Mastodon at the end).
Century with its rattling beat and quiet/loud dichotomy, aided by the dulcet tones of Jarvis Cocker musing on the passage of time, is superb. Baby Be Simple is a sparse song, like the title suggests, and lets the emotional power in her voice ring out without the fuzzy interference we’ve heard earlier. The final songs head in a jazzier direction – this is a musician who at every turn is challenging herself to experiment with sound and vision.
Pleasure could be described as a jarring listen if you come to the album expecting the Feist who dances around with muppets. If you’ve been paying attention you will know darkness has always lingered in her work and it is fascinating to see her fully embrace it. Let’s just hope she doesn’t make us wait another six years to hear what painful pleasures come next.