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Despite achieving very respectable critical success with her last album and garnering huge popularity for being a constant pillar in super-group Broken Social Scene, Leslie Feist has always maintained relative anonymity.
That’s probably because she hasn’t had that one big push. The Canadian's occasional appearances in the mainstream light haven’t exactly been conventional. Her 2007 single ‘1234’ was used to launch a new line of iPod Nanos, was performed on Sesame Street in a segment to help children to learn how to count and was generally ranked as one of the best songs of the year – it was only bettered by Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ in Time Magazine. The most peculiar Feist-related story has to be the bust-up between Shia Labeouf and Michael Bay on the set of Transformers 3. Bay didn’t take too kindly to Labeouf’s insistence on playing Feist’s ‘Brandy Alexander’ out loud to prepare for a particularly emotional scene.
‘The Bad of Each Other’ opens Metals with the big clappy beats and saxophone hooks that gave edge to so many of her other songs. It’s followed by another familiar sound; the soft wavy quavers of her voice in ‘Graveyard’ and the climax of choir backing in the chorus is vintage Feist.
Her voice takes centre stage again in the sombre ballad ‘Caught a Long Wind’. ‘How Come You Never Go There?’ has an r&b edge, while ‘A Commotion’ comes a little out of leftfield. Without ever abandoning the elegance and sophistication of the preceding songs, it sounds like a grand cabaret-musical number that explodes with male vocal chants in the chorus.
‘The Circled Married the Line’ and ‘Bittersweet Melodies’ are floaty numbers, and are followed by ‘Anti-Pioneer,’ which sets scenes of a dark smoky bar with its deep base and sporadic but perfectly timed guitar plucks. ‘The Undiscovered First’ is driven by rusty guitars and tambourines, and ‘Cicadas and Gulls’ is a stripped-down acoustic song that is every bit as intricate in its lyrics as it is in the guitar-play: ‘Maps can be posed/ With you on your own/ And distance is brail/ And all it entails’.
‘Comfort Me’ is executed in a similar vein, bar the big sing-along lighter-swaying finale, and ‘Get it Wrong, Get it Right’ is the perfect chilled wind-down to the album. Like the imagery of nature she uses, the lyrics are simple but warming.
Consider this a new step for Feist. With every album, her sound has matured in every sense; mostly so in her writing. Feist’s lyrics have gone from romantic ideals to wise proverbs. Fans of light and bouncy songs like ‘Mushaboom’ from 2004’s Let it Die and ‘My Moon, My Man’ from 2007’s The Reminder may find it hard to wrap their heads around a style and tone that only occasionally made appearances on her previous albums. If anything, the success of Metals will come just as much from its draw of new fans.
Album opener ‘San Angeles’ will get feet moving and booties shaking, but the rest of the album is decidedly more post-rock oriented. The influences of Pink Floyd only really make a grand appearance on psychedelic tune ‘Lunar Drift’, with its spooky synths and echoing bass line.
‘The Eliminator’ takes the listener back to the eighties again, as the repetitive electronic beat that is used sounds a lot like the 8-bit sounds that were the backdrop for many early eighties video games. Imagine the aforementioned desert wasteland turning 8-bit coloured.
The eighties also dominate in the strummed intro to ‘Martin Rev’, evoking memories of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. You’d almost think the guys of Maserati had wished they were making music a few decades ago.
Who can resist Lana Del Rey’s free-spirited vibes? Her particular brand of chart-friendly baroque pop has topped the charts, been featured in movies and played all over radio stations around the world. She’s become a sensation in next to no time and Cairene music lovers can’t get enough of her.
The reluctant princess of the modern pop scene released her third studio album this summer and it is, in a nutshell, a true ode to her unique sound. The album kicks off with 'Cruel World'; a laidback track showcasing Del Rey’s raspy vocals telling the tale of a broken romance with an edge. The song sets off the mood for the whole album, which generally carries on with a rather melancholic and nostalgic theme.
'Ultraviolence' and 'Shades of Cool' follow in similar style with Del Rey’s trademark soft murmurs and slow beat, while Del Rey’s love affair with New York once again inspires, with 'Brooklyn Baby’.
'West Coast', released as a single, stands out and breaks the pattern with a more upbeat vibe to it, Del Rey competing to keep up with a noticeably faster drumming action. It also signals a slight break from the heavy melancholy and imagery; the album goes onto, by and large, talk more plainly about a deeply dysfunctional relationship or two – or, well, a dozen – from all angles; long distance relationships, cheating, abuse – you name it. The lyrics get even more graphic and strong in “F*cked My Way Up to the Top’, with Del Rey not holding back and unapologetically mewing “this is my show.”
The album comes to an end with ‘Old Money’ which may remind some of Del Rey’s contribution to soundtrack of The Great Gatsby, ‘Young & Beautiful’. The song seems to hint at another day and age; another time of aristocratic summer nights and indulgent clothing; a Jay Gatsby party perhaps?
Ultraviolence collectively sounds as the shadowing, rather than the continuation, of previous album, Born to Die. The subjects she explores are the same and even imagery and references used are rather familiar – her “red dress”, for example. But the distinctive flavour she adds to today’s music scene is certainly something that will keep her relevant.
Does anything on Ultraviolence measure up to early hits like ‘Video Games’? No, not quite.