Multitudes by Feist
- LIVE: Multitudes Mini-Concert (4 songs: 13.23 mins)
- REVIEWS: New York Times, NPR,
- LYRICS: Kurated No. 177B: The lyrics are the heart of the album
- PLAYLISTS: On YouTube and Spotify
FEIST SHARES MULTITUDES
“Over the years, I’ve found I’m increasingly writing inward, I’m writing towards the woman I hold in trust … ”
“Songs are part of how we remember to be ourselves…” says Leslie Feist. ” They are translators for how to do life. That’s what songs are to me.”
Speaking last week about her just released sixth album, Multitudes, she told The Guardian, “I’ve found I’m increasingly writing inward, I’m writing towards the woman I hold in trust, who I hold inside me, who I hope to grow into.”
Tapping into a more intimate persona on her first recording in six years, a reflective Feist shares insights through a dozen songs, many of which feature delicate vocals over quiet, nylon-stringed acoustic guitar as well as a few compositions with bigger sound and energy.
The album’s origin story is unique. Some of its songs emerged from a demanding, weeks long song-a-day workshop with top flight artists like Mac DeMarco, Maggie Rogers and Hayden. Then the pandemic afforded an opportunity for Feist and her team to revive a theatre-in-the-round idea which called for touring small venues with small audiences. During 2021 and 2022 she performed the show 90 times starting in Hamburg, then the US as well as Ottawa and Toronto. The shows blurred boundaries between performer and audience and allowed Feist to experiment with a different form of presenting and developing her music.
Originally she intended for the songs to be complete by the time they hit the road. Instead, she told Vogue magazine this month, “the workshopping nature of the show lent itself to giving myself increasing amounts of permission to show the process as it was happening in real-time.
“If we’re inventing a new context for people to relate [to each other] inside of a concert setting and toward the “concert-ness” of the concert, then why can’t everything else be allowed to be reinterpreted on the fly?”
Also the set was designed using a new spatial audio technology called Dolby Atmos which produces an immersive experience and was also used in the production of the album.
Feist onstage during the theatre-in-the-round tour of Multitudes during 2021 and 2022
Her music’s change in tone from previous albums reflects Feist’s changed life in becoming a mother and losing her father, both within 18 months. In the subdued and unsettled Forever Before she stands on the edge of a different life, singing:
I’ve never begun a forever before
Until I didn’t want anything else any more
All the time in the world
You can’t begin to prepare
For forever before
She’s sleeping right over there
Her inward posture is expressed in quiet vocals and an array of evocative string arrangements. She told her producer and manager, Robbie Lackritz, she wanted “almost that ASMR amount of proximity” to the sound. “Almost like the binaural headphone thing, where there’s a voice right here, and it’s almost making the hair stand up on the back of your neck.”
Songs like the wistful Love Who We Are Meant To, Hiding Out In The Open and The Redwing are unhurried, personal and acoustic renderings. Other pieces such as the joyful In Lightning and oddly triumphant Borrow Trouble are grander in scope and sound with banging percussion, wailing saxophones and searing guitar lines.
What they all have in common is meticulous attention to detail and the artist’s desire to share her ideas and discoveries. Close listening reveals a score of instruments augmenting individual lines and whole verses. The overdubbed multipart harmonies on Feist’s tremulous, sometimes grainy, voice range from duets to polyphonic choruses and are perfectly placed.
The promise in the album’s title is fulfilled in all ways – musically, thematically and lyrically. A veteran musician at 47, Feist the artist is an inspiring work in progress. She embodies authenticity and integrity. As few artists can and do, she candidly shares the ongoing dialogue she has with herself and the world. As she told CBC radio host Tom Power on Q this week, “I have nothing to offer unless I’m offering where I’m at.”
Stay tuned and enjoy,
22 April 2023
Most of the reviews for Multitudes anoint Feist with high praise. At the time of writing the Metacritic score for the album was 85 with reviews from 13 publications. Jon Parales’ review in the New York Times is one of the most succinct and informative. (I hope you’re able to get beyond the NYT paywall.) Jason Anderson’s write-up in Uncut provides great detail.
On Feist’s ‘Multitudes,’ Tranquillity Is Shadowed by Disquiet
The New York Times On the new album, Feist also grapples with memories, contemplates mortality and wonders about the future of the planet her daughter will inhabit. All of those themes converge in “Become the Earth.” It begins as a modest waltz — acoustic guitar, pizzicato cello — as Feist lilts about the fact of death, that eventually, “we all become the earth.” Midway through, she overdubs her voice into a cappella harmonies, singing about “dust into dust as material must” but also about plastics pollution. She layers chorale on overlapping chorale; she wishes for someone to “stay loving me” while she thinks about absolute endings.
Empathy, longing, compassion, faith, acceptance and uncertainty make a gorgeous blend. In that song and across the album, Feist summons all of them, carefully and with preternatural grace.
Feist holds a mirror up to her ‘Multitudes’
NPR So it is for Leslie Feist, the Canadian singer-songwriter who has been making quizzical and inquisitive solo albums for a full quarter-century but has now arrived at her apogee, Multitudes. It is unequivocally the best album of her career, because it so clearly collects and examines the hardships, joys and takeaways of her 47 years, then shares them in ineffable songs stripped very nearly to their magnetic center.
Feist: Multitudes review – a soul-stirring career highlight
The Guardian The interplay of Feist’s simple guitar lines and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s swelling string arrangements creates the perfect setting for her introspective and perceptive lyrics. On the everyday pain of grief in Hiding Out in the Open she asks: “Everybody’s got their shit/ But who’s got the guts to sit with it?” On The Redwing she concludes that she does indeed have that capacity. “I live up to what I sing to,” she croons over a descending guitar line.
Ultimately, the multitudes of the title are the difficult emotions Feist tries to live with – tender quietude and noisy declarations. The record is a career highlight from an accomplished artist producing luscious, storytelling music from experiences so foundational that they defy neat narrative.
Multitudes: An ambitious and daring effort
Uncut Yet as deeply felt as these songs obviously are, Multitudes feels anything but precious or fragile or even very vulnerable. Instead, the album may be even bolder and more bracing than the theatrical experiment that preceded it. As she did on stage, Feist delights in dismantling the cliché of the forlorn singer-songwriter pouring one’s heart out to the accompaniment of a strummed acoustic guitar. While the songs started that way at the recording’s onset – and a handful retain that rawness – their shapes were often distended as they incorporated other elements, including the remarkable variety of voices that Feist weaves together in angelic choral passages and less obviously mellifluous arrangements.
Feist’s intimate new album Multitudes contains her
The Globe and Mail Her album elegantly reflects the introspection. The cradle songs for her daughter resulted in lullabies for adults. “I don’t think my job is to provide a good time or a night out,” she says about her music. “I think the only reason for me to write is to try to understand my life.”