Leslie Feist, the name of the girl with a peculiarly velvety voice with unpredictable tones who was born in Canada, 32 years ago, doesn't have a career that is easy to describe; none of that playing in a band, being discovered and going straight up in the Billboard charts. Somewhere between wanting to be a writer and walking in her socks through the dressing rooms of an electronic music band, Feist started her solo career.
Her musical history started in the choirs she was on during most of her childhood and adolescence, where she would sing and dance. However, by the time she was seventeen, she was already a member of a punk band, with which she won a "battle of the bands". During the competition, she ended up befriending two musicians who led her to leave the Ramones to be a part of the experimental band Broken Social Scene. Unfortunately, around this time, she was diagnosed with a vocal chords injury that stopped her from singing for a long period of time.
It was thanks to a strong will that the singer decided to wait for her recovery without getting away from music, taking up the bass and the guitar in another friend's band. An interesting fact: she had never played either before, but that didn't seem to stop her, because she became part of the By Divine Rights from 1998 to 2000, when she changed bands, once again. It was the turn of the electronic musician Peaches, a friend of a friend, with whom Feist started working, by giving assistance backstage and, occasionally, singing. It was during this transitional time that she met the eccentric Chilly Gonzales and, as you can see, the girl is good at making friends; from that encounter her music, as we know it today, would be born.
Debuting with an obscure album, Feist was able to explore the shapes she would create next. Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down), up until now, can only be seen almost as a demo album, born out of the silent time when she was recovering her health. Fatally, Let it Die, in 2004, is the album that will forever be remembered as her first work, one where the singer's style is written all over it. From it, absurdly involving songs, such as Mushaboom, One Evening and When I Was a Young Girl, sprang up. With Let It Die, Feist took home the Juno Awards (the "Canadian Grammy") for New Artist of the Year and Alternative Album of the Year. A compilation album, with tweakings in the melodies of Monarch, as well as remixes.
The Reminder, in 2007, would be the right record, at the right time. Songwriter Sally Seltman told that it took her the entire tour of Broken Social Scene (yes, she was still in the band) to show Leslie Feist a small song she had written, because she was so shy about it. 1234 only had a simple guitar and vocals arrangement when Sally worked up the courage to show it. Feist liked it so much, she started playing it in her shows. The songwriter says she was shocked to discover the song in the, at the time, new iPod Nano commercial. The success was staggering: very rarely does an indie song reached the top 10 in the Billboard charts, with downloads reaching the thousands. Grammy hint. Once again, Feist garned the Juno Award, now for the Song of the Year. 1234 was also turned into a parody against Apple by MAD TV (I thought the link would be very cool, because the video rocks).
And there's also something that goes beyond the awards and the confusing story of her career. Feist's songs articulate an identity that crosses the boundaries of sound and present us with delicious videos from which hundreds of images and photos overflow with lyricism. The colours, the choreographies, dances, shapes, wardrobe, gestures, woman's memory and even flying toasters seem an irresistable visit to playful fantasies, made possible in the present, along with our rocky and tedious daily lives. Maybe her melodies are a new vehicle for our passions, even the frustrated ones, lost along the way. And all wrapped up with sophisticated ribbons, arrangements and literature, that honour the Canadian folk tradition of Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. To listen, watch an feel, non-stop.
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