If there were an award given for the most surprising album of 2011, Feist’s Metals would undoubtedly be its recipient, if not at least a serious contender for the honour. What made so many people surprised by the album was not the inherent quality of its music, but how an artist that had given all indication on her previous records of being a dyed-in-the-wool romantic would suddenly put out a record as frequently resigned, and occasionally uncomfortable, as Metals. From the plainspoken, ‘simple’ title standing in sharp contrast to Let It Die and The Reminder to the earth-bound imagery of “Caught a Long Wind” and “The Circle Married the Line”, the album felt unsettling for a lot of listeners finding themselves unsure of what to do with the visceral push-push-push-push! of “A Commotion” or the bitterness expressed in “The Bad in Each Other”.
What they missed, of course, is that Metals is not meant to be a happy record. It is, at its most fundamental level, the same sort of moody, often claws-out chronicle of a relationship that was Tori Amos’ classic 1996 record Boys for Pele. Like Amos before her, Feist is mining unexplored terrain when it comes to Metals’ musicality, unafraid to include Eastern-sounding melodies or choruses of layered voices when the occasion strikes her. Metals is not a vanity project, however; it is a confident, assured step forward for an artist that may have been in danger of being pigeonholed into a poppy sensibility she was never that much of an ideal fit for anyways.