So this is what we get after six years away. Juno Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist’s long-awaited fifth LP Pleasure continues the trend of 2011’s Metals, heading in an even more esoteric direction than her smash hit record The Reminder. Mostly recorded live in studio, this latest offering is a cagey and defiant record that is admirable for its obstinacy.
From the off Feist revels in challenging her listeners on Pleasure, gradually building up the opening title track before letting rip with a surprisingly jagged lead guitar riff and stomping chorus. It sets a peculiar tone but demonstrates how easily Feist can carry even the strangest songs and make them a success. Sparse, unsettling strums such as I Wish I Didn’t Miss You and the haunting Lost Dreams sound lonely and isolated, caked in a hiss which gives Pleasure a raw quality compared to the warm naturalism of Metals and The Reminder’s shuffling folk-pop.
Pleasure is a knotty record full of false turns and outbursts in unexpected places: the lively distorted stagger of Any Party masterfully drops from its studio setting to a drunken bar singalong before we are taken out into the night, while an incongruous snippet of Mastodon abruptly but cleverly ends the gentle harmonies of A Man Is Not His Song. The anthemic Century, meanwhile, reaches an eerie quasi-goth conclusion complete with Jarvis Cocker lamenting the ‘endless dark nights of the soul’.
Even when Pleasure is at its most unhinged, it's always intelligent and warm with a strong sense of its narrative being masterfully controlled. At the heart of Pleasure remains Feist’s typical tenderness illustrated by the reassuring swell of The Wind, the woozy heartbreak of Baby Be Simple and the Wurlitzer waltz of closer Young Up. 'Fear not, you young pup / The end’s not coming,’ Feist smiles, sounding tired but content.
Pleasure is easily Feist’s most difficult album, far from the immediate accessibility of The Reminder, but she's a captivating performer and it may well be her richest statement. Feist has no need to impress anymore, having long earned the right to live however she likes. By the sounds of it that satisfaction has been hard-won.
Buy Feist - Pleasure on Double LP/CD from Norman Records