Occasionally an artist will combine the fruits of every stylistic experiment that they’ve been responsible for. At best this produces music that looks both forward and backward - music that uses an artist’s artistic experience to produce music that is focussed and yet fresh. Late period masterpieces like David Bowie’s Scary Monsters, U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, Matthew Good’s Hospital Music all fit into this category. One can also see this at work, however, on breakout albums like Born to Run and even Dark Side Of The Moon.
The Bad In Eachother is such a tour-de-force. It features a laundry list of every musical device from Feist’s last two albums - An angular beat; a rough, western feel; a choral duet with a low male voice; Neil Young-esque rhythm guitar; full strings and brass. The chorus is simple yet incredibly emotionally resonant. In this track - and to a lesser extent on the second track - Feist is in form like she never has been before.
Elsewhere the album stays up to the standard set by The Reminder with some notable upgrades. Comfort Me is a bluesy, vulnerable album track that blows away any of the album tracks on the last two Feist albums (and the entirety of Monarch, in my opinion). Anti-pioneer’s string breakdown recalls Emily Haines’ best work with the Soft Skeleton. How Come You Never Go There is rendered powerful through its subtlety.
Subtlety, indeed has always been one of Feist’s strongest suits. True to form, Metals is her most subtle to date. Her voice is powerful but never flashy. Her guitar playing recalls Neil Young in its dynamic control and misleading simplicity. The arrangements on the album are tastefully understated - the full horn section that is mobilized on several tracks is almost unnoticeable as it provides accent to the musical core. Credit must go to Gonzales as well, who plays so simply that you’d be hard pressed to realize that he’s a virtuoso. Good musicians display their skill - great musicians simply use it. Throughout the album, skill is used, never displayed.
There are moments, though, that are just a little too close to The Reminder. Bittersweet Memories is a little too close to How My Heart Behaves to stand out. Caught In A Long Wind is a stylistic twin of The Water, which is a shame because it may just be the better song. The album is perhaps her first which does not have a definite weak point but it does lose some of its impact towards the end as each song settles into a mid-tempo groove.
All this amounts to an album that shows Feist continuing to get better and better without seeming to peak. If she can continue to play her strengths as on the best tracks her next record may be a knockout on the order of Born To Run. It’s not inconceivable - she has already proven not only to be one of the most exciting Canadian artists of the last decade. She is a rare artist whose sound is inherently relevant regardless of the climate of the time. Her music commands the respect of an artist who sets trends. Metals is yet more proof of Feist’s power.