Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Feist present in a sort of "third term" (neutral) space?

I was reading an article from a Madison-based website called "77-Square," which did a kind of profile of Leslie Feist as a precursor to her concert on 3 June 2012 at the Capitol Theater. In the short interview, the singer makes some interesting points, providing for the reader a framework for her latest creative expression, the album Metals. She mentions that the new album is a response to the success of the previous one (The Reminder from 2007 and, especially, the hit single "1234"): "There's only so much honesty and presence you can bring to talking about the same thing over and over, or singing the same songs over and over. . . . It's really important to me to stay present and to stay a part of the whole thing when it's in my name."

The article outlines 2 particular notions, in order of importance (by the way, the one above is of secondary importance, though I will return to it below). The first part of the article talks about how Feist's response to her success was manifest, namely with the recording of the album in Big Sur, California. She talks about how John Steinbeck is the "godfather" of the new album, and that his work makes the reader think that "you've lived some meaningful, deep life there [in Big Sur] amidst all these salty characters." But, it turns out that Big Sur is not the ideal place once thought: "Prior to the February 2011 recording sessions, which took place on a sprawling coastal ranch, the singer believed California to be eternally sunny, with, in her own words, 'oranges trickling down from every tree.' In that regard, northern California's sometimes-harsh weather proved to be a bit of a wake-up call." The article writer goes on to suggest that the weather was stormy and "quite frigid."

Consider Feist's words:
I think there's definitely something about us being so cold during the making of the record. . . . I think all your senses are sharp and alive when you're dealing with less-than-humane conditions. There's a very intense intention behind everyone's playing.
So, remember what Feist stated about her time after The Reminder; she suggested that there is "only so much honesty and presence," and that she wanted to make sure to "stay present." The cold did that for her, as do her frequent breaks from the tour to return to Toronto (her home as stated in the article). So what does Toronto and cold weather have in common? Both of those things are Canadian.

Except that the cold she is talking about is in Big Sur, California. And the Toronto she is talking about is simply a place, a "moment," of refuge, and one that she even tries to recreate while on tour, by cooking for herself and shopping at local vegetable markets: "to take ownership of my days a little bit more." Her refuges are a momentary Toronto and faux-Toronto, Big Sur and the music (as space) of Metals. This is the neutral that I'm looking at.

Finally, from an article in the October 2011 issue of Elle magazine:
She tells me that she is approaching the release of the album and cross-country tour "quietly, with no presumptions that it will be what it was—I don't want to feed any fire." But I notice her hands trembling at one point, and I feel bad—like I'm violating her desire for privacy. [emphasis added]
The trembling hands act for me in the same ways as Barthes' punctum, that part of a photograph that resists codification, but pierces the viewer. This is what it does for me. But it also points to this "third term." She is not present in the interview with Elle, not really, not her. She is not being vulnerable, she is being uncomfortable. She is not herself; she suggests, though, that her self is in Big Sur, in faux-Toronto (with her cooking and shopping for food on her own). And in the music "with only the most basic tools, including a desk, a guitar, a single floor tom, a mallet and a 1950s Sears catalog amplifier she described as 'half broken.'" (from the "77-Square" article).


Andy Downing, "5678...Feist Talks About Life After Megahit '1234,'" 77-Square (31 May 2012); available from http://host.madison.com/entertainment/music/feist-talks-about-life-after-megahit/article_e7a262d4-aa9c-11e1-a446-001a4bcf887a.html?comment_form=true; Internet; accessed 31 May 2012.

Kathryn Hudson, "Looking Forward," Elle Canada (October 2011), 130.

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