Showcase of raw emotions

To get a sense of how effortlessly accomplished Feist's fifth album Pleasure is, immerse yourself in the second single Century where she announces from the offset: "I fought my feelings and got in the way."

The percussion hits you like conscience, and she yelps like a lonesome traveller who encounters a dead end, and then turns back, trying to find a way out. Rhythms trip and get hijacked. There's a jolt of real danger. You could die. You may live.

Towards the end, Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker materialises like a prophet (good or bad guy?) and intones in a calmly British tone about the length of a century - "almost as long as one of those endless dark nights of the soul". And unceremoniously, the song ends. Someone's pulled out the plug, and you double-check your player.

Such is the sense and nonsensibility of life and, for 41-year-old Feist, whose full name is Leslie Feist, the usual trappings of fame and success do not hold as much allure anymore.

  • INDIE POP/ROCK

  • PLEASURE

    Feist

    Polydor

    4/5 stars

Produced and performed live in the studio with close pals and long-time collaborators Mocky and Renaud LeTang with minimal overlay, Pleasure lays bare the sutures, capturing "emotional limits… loneliness, private ritual, secrets, shame, mounting pressures, disconnect, tenderness, rejection, care and the lack thereof".

The raw emotions are certainly a thousand miles from her singles Mushaboom (2004) and 1234 (2007), where everything sounded invincible and slickly choreographed.

Now, pleasure is a seed planted, in the wistful hope that it can grow and bloom. Listen to the opening song and title track. Feist sounds both strong and humbled.

"This is how we evolved/We became our needs," she confesses, adding conspiratorially, "It's my pleasure."

Meanwhile, the song swings between tentative riffs and meltdown, before ending in a shout-and-response battle. By then, you would have traversed the gamut of feelings in the varied utterances of "pleasure".

Romantic disappointment hangs around like a spurned ghost. In The Man Is Not His Song, she sings about how songs are promises, and that "if a man is just his song/Then the song is beyond us". The music is blues too, her sentiments fraying, bookended by a seemingly incongruous but fitting sample of the heavy metal band Mastodon.

In sparsely strummed dirges such as I Wish I Didn't Miss You, she picks the wounds of a lost relationship. "I felt some certainty that you must have died/Because how could I live if you're still alive?" she asks - dispirited, angry, vulnerable, all in the same breath.

The song is followed by Get Not High, Get Not Low, a testament written in the wake of the realisation that there are going to be "difficulties and victories every day".

"Secretive to stay intact/Well that is not fun/That's why I couldn't trust anyone at all," is the hard truth, as the emollient strums soothe frazzled nerves.

"I can't tell or be told where to go," she repeats at the end, as the song peters to its end. Somehow, you know she'll be fine.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2017, with the headline 'Showcase of raw emotions'. Print Edition | Subscribe