Canadians, especially those of a certain age (25-35), are very familiar with Leslie Feist. The singer who defined what it was to be a female singer-songwriter for about 10 years between 2002 and 2012 has been pretty down of late, staying away from the limelight and the studio for over 6 years now. When she first broke onto the scene she was a fresh faced 20-something crooning about walking around in ‘knee-deep snow’ and the ‘moon and her man’. All that seems over now. 20 years later, Feist has more to fall back on and a lot more emotional maturity than she did when she was writing love songs, and it’s evident in her writings.
“I understood that there was actually a choice,” Feist said to the Guardian in an interview, “you can decide to lean positive, you can decide to give things a silver lining, you can decide to have the glass be half full – as opposed to just feeling like my moods are god, as if whatever mood is passing through me has complete control and I have no say.”
Back in her heyday, Feist absolutely had the glass half full. As her song “1234” was picked up for a iPod commercial and her single “Mushaboom” rocketed to the top of the Alt Charts. It was a time full of whimsy. Her perception, at least in her marketing and in the media, was that of the ultimate manic pixie dream girl of indie pop. Feist was, and remains, peak-2005. But this was a long time ago – almost 20 years since she came on the scene. She’s a completely different person now and instead of focusing on searching for happiness, she’s creating her own.
This creation is evident when you do a little digging into the creation of her new record Pleasure.
“When you’re younger, you just assume there’s a golden door that will open, and there’s some type of shining eternity,” she told the Guardian.” There’s a promise, if you achieve dot dot dot, then you will have dot dot dot. There’s some fantasy that’s implanted in us, for happiness or foreverness or togetherness.” When it comes to the record itself, when talking about the song “Get Not High, Get Now Low,” “The high of falling in love with someone isn’t a desirable state for me any more. Maybe that was [written] on one of the days of I can’t be that low any more but I also don’t want to be high. In my teens I would have though what a sellout to want a middle road, but the middle road is a deeper road, because when you’re high and then you’re low and then you’re high and then you’re low, you’re just dipping your toe in each, you’re not ever really invested in either.”
Pleasure itself, although probably not her most striking work, is a change of pace record for someone who is at a cross-roads in their own life. After releasing it to a packed Trinity United Church last night in Toronto the whole night felt like a linchpin. While there were those in the crowd pinning for old hits and whooping as Feist showed her old moxie – Feist herself was much more reserved in her performance. Yes, it was the first show of touring an album and the hiccups in the performance were glaring, but the community spirit that she has fostered around her music was still there. The joy and happiness surrounding her performance was still there. Even it it wasn’t immediately relevant in her music anymore.
It’s becoming more and more evident that Feist is no longer that manic pixie that everybody remembers her as. But just wait, her middle road is also a trip.