Leslie Feist has always had a conflicted relationship with her success, too modest (she is Canadian) and alternative to slide comfortably right into stardom. Ever since “1234” was featured in an iPod ad and launched her skyward a decade ago on her hit record The Reminder (QRO review), she has been hesitant about going big, with only one full-length since (2011’s Metals – QRO review). Pleasure sees Feist particularly strip down, for a more challenging release that rewards.
Everything about Pleasure feels intimate, but also relatively quiet, with Feist softly singing to us up close – even when it gets bigger. That does create some of the heartbreaking pieces that you’d expect, such as the back porch breeze sadness to “Get Not High, Get Not Low”, or the airier echoing of the following “Lost Dreams”. But there are also even greater wry moments like standout “Any Party” and the lo-fi, low-down, getting-down title track. And there are louder sounds that still fit, like grand-but-still-personal “The Wind” or the stripped blues into something bigger “I’m Not Running Away”.
This is also an album that gives more with more listens, even just sticking with the song one that is listening to. At first it all can feel too small and precious, but further exposure removes the cuteness and amps up the emotional heft. While often only a bit pokes out above the waterline, there is always a lot underneath.
Feist follows in the tradition of odd, intimate, yet quite popular (with both critics & crowds) songstresses such as PJ Harvey and Kate Bush, not resting on her laurels or easy wins (she seemingly doesn’t play “1234” live much anymore – QRO live review), but slowly delivering a bit of herself, wrapped her own way, as a gift to fans.