Friday, January 30, 2009

Listening Session: Feist, The Reminder

Feist’s The Reminder is on my list of the ten best albums of the new millennium. The songs are brilliantly written and sung; they hold together to form a coherent album that is greater than the sum of its parts. This should be apparent to the most casual listener. (The “album” has become a lost art form in this era of downloadable singles. Its decline probably goes back to the advent of CDs, when artists had to think of an album in terms of a single long-play format with the capacity for 75-minutes of music instead of two 20-minute sides. The latter just seems like a more manageable format for structuring an album. But that’s a topic for another post.)

What I want to discuss is how the production of The Reminder contributes to the album’s greatness. There’s usually very little discussion regarding the production value of an album by music reviewers or fans, especially compared to, say, movies. The Reminder is one album in which each song is produced differently for effect and artistic purpose. The album starts with “So Sorry”, which sounds like a simple, live analog recording (there’s even tape hiss in the background). When Feist starts singing, the realism is startling. The entire song has a sense of immediacy that makes the rest of the album sound like artifice. It’s as if “So Sorry” is the present point and the songs that follow are a constructed past or background to the present moment. This is readily apparent in “The Park”, a song that has a severely boxed-in sound, as if the singer’s voice is coming from a transistor radio or metaphorically trapped in the past. The production perfectly matches the song’s essence. The following song, “The Water”, adds heavy reverb to Feist’s voice that heightens the sense of a person lost in a vast space. In “Sea Lion Woman”, Feist’s voice is processed in a way that suggests the shamanistic tone of the song. “Intuition” has the same boxed-in sound as “The Park” with a little extra reverb in her voice. It’s this common sound that made me realize that “Intuition” is the sister song to “The Park”, with a common subject but a different perspective. On the vinyl LP, these two songs are also the fourth track on the respective side. As these examples illustrate, The Reminder is a rich, complex album that merits close listening. My only complaint is that Feist has such a great voice that it’s a shame that on all but the first song, there’s some produced effect to her voice.

Record used for the listening session is the Dutch pressing on white vinyl. I also have the US pressing of the album, but have not compared it to the Dutch pressing yet.

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