I can't say for sure, but I'm fairly sure that Leslie Feist was sad when she made this album.
There's always been a hint of the bittersweet in Feist's folk-jazzy-pop music, even though her last album was a sparkling, colorful affair. But her fourth solo album "Metals" is a far more bittersweet, raw affair, like listening to someone's heart breaking under a moonlit sky in the country.
She sets off with the percussive, country-flavored "The Bad in Each Other," an uneasy bleak song that makes you think of dark rooms and destructive passion. "We held the same feelings/at opposite times/A good man, a good woman/can't find the good in each other," she murmurs.
After that, she slips into a string of soft, slightly sad songs -- the murky drift of "Graveyard," the starlit ballad "Caught a Long Wind," the jazzy "How Come You Never Go There?", the string-soaked meditative "Anti-Pioneer" and its string-soaked crescendo, the heartrendingly lovely "Undiscovered First," and the more hopeful, haunting finale "Get It Wrong, Get It Right" ("We'll go, can hope/have to hope...")/
But she also explores some more.... off-kilter music. "A Commotion" eases us in with the sound of someone repeatedly clamping down on piano keys, only to be swept into a surreal rock of strange voices, bizarre noises and gleeful darkness. And "Cicadas and Gulls" is a proggy bulk that slowly rolls through your ears. It's strangely hypnotic, but it's also uncomfortably out-of-step with the other songs.
I adored "The Resident," and all the different pop styles that Feist was trying on for size. But honestly, it feels like "Metals" is almost the polar opposite -- while some of the musical stylings are similar to Feist's previous works, this one is far softer, sadder and more contemplative.
She sticks mostly to the jazzy-folky-pop sound of her previous albums, but cloaks the acoustic guitars in a sheen of nimble swirling pianos, keyboard, toy piano and great silken masses of strings. And her slightly husky voice floats over the whole thing... except when she yowls, drones or soars. It sounds like it should be lulling -- and sometimes it is, such as in "Graveyard" -- but often Feist throws in something twisted or unnerving when you don't expect it.
There's a sadness and darkness in Feist's "Metals," but it doesn't make the album any less beautiful in execution. I don't think we'll hear any of these songs in iPod commercials, though.