Leslie Feist's second album Let It Die was one of those unique albums that floated across all spectrums in terms of how it was embraced. It was a critical success and found favorable praise amongst indie rock circles and big name publications. At the same time, several tracks on the release were licensed for compilations and a couple tracks even found quite a bit of radio play on mainstream radio. Heck, I know a song has hit the big time fairly well when it's playing in the background at the local mainstream supermarket where I shop, and I've found myself pushing my cart to "Mushaboom" more than a couple times in the past couple years.
Feist herself is a rather unique singer/songwriter as well. She can play several instruments (even banging the drums once or twice for Broken Social Scene while touring with them) and her voice is the type that can get low key with an acoustic guitar and sound great while belting it out on a polished pop song in other places. Essentially, that's what she does again here, and while there are some definite highlights, it's a much more ballad-like album as a whole, leading to a release that feels even longer than it is without nearly as many payoff songs.
"So Sorry" starts things out slowly, but the shuffling track is a nice stripped-down lead-in that features the great voice of Feist and glints with subtle piano, background vocals, and synths (courtesy of Jamie Lidell). The next two songs on the release are easily amongst the best on the entire release. "I Feel It All" is a jaunty pop track that bounces with loose acoustic guitar strums, punchy drums, and some playful synths. "My Moon My Man" is the first single from the album, and for good reason, as it struts with an ascending piano melody, some subtle farfisa, and guitars that move from quiet to blazing (including a swirling bridge that's stunning).
From there out, the sequencing of the album is a bit puzzling, with a couple longer, bland tracks ("The Park," "The Water") that drag the album down a bit before the playful "Sealion" (that again works wonderfully with background vocals, handclaps, and interesting instrumentation. Then, after "Past In Present," nearly the entire remainder of the album walks things down with slow track after slow track that make the album feel a bit laborious. "1 2 3 4" manages to inject a bit of life into the proceedings with some buoyant banjo, horns, and piano, while "Honey Honey" delves into more unique instrumentation with quiet but dirty guitars, harp, a repeating synth line and some of the better vocals from Feist on the release. In the end, The Reminder is by no means a bad album, but it certainly could have used a bit more trimming and a little less of a focus on the soft pop side of things. Feist has a heck of a voice, and she still takes more chances than most of her contemporaries making this kind of music, but I can't help but feel a little let down by this release.