With the exception of a few songs, I admire Feist’s new album, The Reminder, more than I actually enjoy it. While Let It Die is “remarkably varied,” as I once wrote, “touching on both sleek, intricate Sade soundalikes and scorched-earth hollers,” The Reminder‘s palette is more limited. I guess she’s finding her own voice (the first album was half covers), but those sudden excursions into sultry lounge-pop are what previously kept her from veering too close to bland Starbucks singer-songwriter fare. (Which is not to fault her for “going corporate” or anything. I mean, Mike Powell is right that there’s a line with Feist that The Reminder, with its attendant New York Times profiles and free iTunes downloads, has made blurry: if she was once a cool indie version of Norah Jones, maybe she’s now just plain Norah Jones. But it’s really not the album’s reception that I give a shit about; I just wish the songs sparkled more.)
Last night’s show, on the other hand, won me over entirely, and I think it’s because she was able to take what have always been fairly contained songs on record and for the first time let them breathe. This was apparent from the second song in the set, “When I Was a Young Girl,” which she extended with blazing, stuttering riffs that frankly reminded me of PJ Harvey more than anybody. She repeatedly engaged the audience to clap and sing along, and her versatile band helped, too, dressing up bare songs with rippling guitar that felt a lot more playful than whatever tiny, orderly xylophone part was already there. It’s probably the best thing she could’ve done.
Ever since first seeing Tortoise nine years ago, I get a kick out of watching multi-instrumentalist bands that lean on electronic production techniques recreate their sound in a live context, and so opening act Grizzly Bear, with its yearning, echoing harmonies and occasional woodwinds, was a treat, too. I was especially taken with the band’s disarming cover of “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)” (YouTube), though the songs from Yellow House were stellar as well.