Leslie Feist is easy to love. Just listen to her previous solo affairs (1999’s Monarch and 2004’s Let It Die) and her work with Broken Social Scene and others: She has charm and charisma working for her in all the right ways. Her magnetic personality draws us in, and her jazzy compositions and her allure reveal layers of emotional depth and a sympathetic presence. It was her exploration of universal themes coupled with her personable demeanor that garnered Feist nearly universal love in the aftermath of Let It Die, and on her third full-length, The Reminder, she continues to extend a thoughtful arm, whittling intricacy into something poignant and manageable.
What will likely make The Reminder the most accurate, rewarding and universal document of Feist’s artistic intentions are its best and most telling moments. Over a kick drum, piano and handclaps in “Brandy Alexander,” Feist likens her tragic lover to a sweet cocktail, singing, “He’s my Brandy Alexander/ always gets me into trouble/ but that’s another matter” and “I know what I love most of him/ I’m walking on needles and pins/ My addiction to the worst of him.” She doesn’t offer a resolution; she acknowledges the doom and offers no fix. Her concession to a forlorn situation and willingness to reside in that moment echoes a universal question of the confusion of rights and wrongs in love and life.
The Reminder starts off with “So Sorry,” a lamentation on relationship regret in which she recounts a realization on the complexity and confusion in connecting with her lover. It’s a perfect introduction, and it contains some insightful conclusions, including “I’m sorry/ two words I always think/ after you’re gone/ when I realize I was acting all wrong” and “We’re so helpless/ we’re slaves to our impulses/ we’re afraid of our emotions.” The most upbeat numbers on The Reminder — “I Feel It All” and “Past in Present” — are stunners; both are driven by sweeping acoustic guitars and Feist’s dynamic singing and bewitching presence. But the tracks’ subtle details are what makes their more obvious charms long lasting; both songs are painted complete by their background noise — banjos, handclaps, piano, bells.
Perhaps Feist is best explained as the middle ground between the carefree child and responsible adult. She isn’t trying to prove one is better than the other; instead, she acknowledges that we are made up of both, and recognition of this truth is key. She offers no advice, makes no bold proclamations and, like the best artists, leads us to draw our own conclusions from the feelings and emotions portrayed throughout the album. The Reminder is just that: a reminder to look, feel, think, and live.