The journey to Leslie Feist’s sixth album may have been long, eventful and sometimes troubled, but the destination is as rewarding as ever
It may come as a bit of a surprise to discover that Multitudes is only Leslie Feist‘s sixth album. The Canadian has been around so long that she’s almost embedded herself into popular culture, whether it through spiky little indie-folk songs like Mushaboom, slick pop tracks such as 1-2-3-4 or her many collaborations with the likes of Broken Social Scene and Kings Of Convenience.
Yet it has indeed been exactly six years since the last Feist album, Pleasure. That record was distinguished by a more pared-back, introspective approach than previously, and Multitudes continues that musical palette. It’s an album influenced by the circle of life – during lockdown, Feist adopted a baby daughter, and her father suddenly and unexpectedly died.
So it’s an album full of emotion, albeit of a slightly restrained type. The album’s origins shine through as well – many of the tracks were debuted as part of an art installation in 2021, and it’s certainly easy to imagine the skittery drums and multi-tracked vocals of opening track In Lightning accompanying some startling visuals.
But most of the songs are more downtempo numbers. Forever Before is simply Feist at an acoustic guitar, sounding uncannily like early Ani DiFranco at times, musing on those issues of birth and death – “What’s got to end before forever begins?” asks one line. I Took All Of My Rings Off and Hiding Out In The Open are similarly contemplative – many of the tracks on Multitudes began as lullabies to Feist’s baby daughter, and there’s certainly a lulling quality to the likes of Of Womankind.
It’s this general mood of calmness and contemplation which makes the bigger moments on the album even more effective. Borrow Trouble sounds enormous – a bit reminiscent of her old friends Broken Social Scene – starting quietly and intimately before a horn section kicks in to create an exhilarating cacophony. The screams that Feist lets out towards the song’s end are thrillingly cathartic.
Become The Earth is similarly cathartic, albeit in a far different way. It’s a song about grief and mortality, directly addressing her father’s death. Strings shiver in the background, an acoustic guitar is plucked in the background, and Feist talks of people who will “eventually go in a matter of days”. Producer Robbie Lackritz again uses some multi-tracking techniques to spine-tingling effect.
The Redwing also addresses matters of grief, contemplating whether the presence of the titular bird could be a representation of a loved one, while Calling All The Gods has a hypnotic effect, layering vocal lines on top of each other while Feist sings of guilt and responsibility: “One day our deep humiliation will be known” is the startling closing line.
Some may find the relentlessly downbeat tone a bit hard to wade through, but it’s done with such a lightness of touch that it becomes almost uplifting. The journey to Leslie Feist’s sixth album may have been a long, eventful and sometimes troubled one, but the destination is as rewarding as ever.