You really can't blame Feist for grabbing the solo reins and steering her career into ubiquity last year. After all, if you were a member of the 20-members-and-counting Broken Social Scene — one of Canada's many indie-rock groups, which seem to employ 89 percent of the country's young people — you'd look for ways to stand out too.
Feist (first name: Leslie) stood out in a big way. She released her fourth album, The Reminder, which became a hit with critics, coffee-drinkers, and people who watch lots of TV. "1234" reached the Top 10, thanks to an iPod commercial. And she was nominated for four Grammy Awards, three of which she lost to crack fan Amy Winehouse. No matter. Of all the Great White North buzzmakers — including the Arcade Fire and various Broken Social Scenesters — who've impressed blog writers and hipsters over the past few years, none has penetrated the mainstream like Feist.
She also remains one of music's most in-demand auxiliary players. She's written and performed with mopey Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience. She's made appearances on many of her countrymen's albums. And she's collaborated with electroclash provocateur Peaches under the name Bitch Lap Lap. Which got us thinking: What would Feist bring to some classic rock albums made by other Canadians?
To prep you for Feist's show at Playhouse Square this week, we offer five of our favorite Canuck CDs . . . and how Feist could make them more, well, Feistian.
Arcade Fire — Funeral
What It Is: As its title implies, the 2004 debut by these indie-rock faves is steeped in death. Busy, stuffed with complex arrangements, and played feverishly on instruments you won't find at the mall, Funeral is a potentially depressing work, joyously performed by Canada's most innovative band.
What It Could Be: Like Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire consists of so many members, somebody's always getting lost between gigs. And nobody notices. So this wouldn't be too much of a change for Feist, who's used to this sort of band anonymity. Though there's little room for her rainy-day laments here.
Most Feistian Song: "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" — Musically, it's Funeral's most downcast track. Perfect for Feist's occasional melancholy voice.
The Band — Music From Big Pink
What It Is: Bob Dylan's old backing band kicks it like porch-dwelling southerners on its 1968 debut. An Americana milestone, Music From Big Pink is Canadian by default: Four-fifths of the group was born up north. But the record is pure America — the sound of weary vets digging their roots in the middle of the Vietnam War.
What It Could Be: Many of the timeless songs here call out for female harmonies — not that Richard Manuel wasn't capable of hitting the high notes. In fact, his girlie falsetto probably reached peaks Feist's smoky voice could never scale.
Most Feistian Song: "The Weight" — Feist would kill on the round-robin verses, which really need a woman to smooth out all the testosterone scattered about.
Leonard Cohen — Songs of Leonard Cohen
What It Is: Cohen was a respected poet and writer long before he released his 1968 debut, which is partially responsible for James Taylor, Cat Stevens, and all those other self-absorbed singer-songwriters of the '70s. Cohen, however, labored over songs — sometimes spending years fine-tuning them. We heard it took Taylor 47 seconds to write "Your Smiling Face."
What It Could Be: Cohen's winding, wordy songs are well suited to Feist, who knows her way around a rhythmic lyric. Although most of the 10 songs feature female backing vocals, they're high-pitched and kinda annoying. Cohen's deep rumble could use a solid anchor like Feist.
Most Feistian Song: "So Long, Marianne" — Songs' jauntiest cut is also its most tuneful. Look no further than "1234" for jaunty and tuneful.
Alanis Morissette — Jagged Little Pill
What It Is: Morissette's 1995 breakthrough CD pretty much opened pop's airwaves to high-maintenance, stalker-crazy gals who shared way too much information about their personal lives. Thanks to Alanis, we can't go to a movie anymore without wondering if the guy next to us is getting a blowjob.
What It Could Be: Feist is sweet to Morissette's sour, the cream in her coffee. Morissette really needs to chill, and the laid-back Feist could help. We just can't picture the tranquil Feist getting all worked up, let alone territorial, about a man.
Most Feistian Song: "Hand in My Pocket" — Most of Pill's tracks are bitter bites. This one strolls down a more peaceful path. Besides, Feist seems like she might actually know the correct definition of "ironic."