The album feels very unobtrusive; rarely speeding up past a gentle shuffle. The one notable exception is "A Commotion", a track entrenched in droning strings and a heavily accented chanting refrain that serves to break up the mood of the album. However, on the rest of Metals, Feist seems most comfortable with slow, emotive tunes and string work.
This tendency is immediately obvious in the excellent opener, "The Bad in Each Other". The track shuffles along steadily with a strong mix of claps and drums, a repeated guitar line, and the occasional accent from the string and horn sections. The song's instrumentals do a great job backing up Leslie Feist's unique voice.
Fortunately, the album employs a diverse sound that gives interesting changes of pace throughout. Standout tracks include the gentle, acoustic "Cicadas and Gulls", the softly tinkling "Bittersweet Melodies", and "Anti-Pioneer", which employs a stripped-down slow blues feel. One of my personal favorite tracks on Metals was "The Undiscovered First", which starts softly, with Feist's voice accompanied by a guitar, and then builds into a climax of percussion and lightly distorted guitars.
However, despite the varied instrumentation and Leslie Feist's incredible vocal technique, the album may suffer a bit from a lack of the playfulness that has become an essential and popular part of Feist's sound. A track or two like "Mushaboom" or "I Feel it All", though perhaps out of place in the melancholy of Metals, would contribute a touch of lightness that would take away some of the album's stiflingly serious mood.
Overall, Metals can be a bit of a mixed bag for some. While it showcases Feist's musical talent and control of tone and mood beautifully, it may not be right for everyone, particularly fans of "iPod commercial" Feist songs. I personally enjoyed Metals because of the difference in sound from Feist's previous albums. The darkness of the album as a whole is very compelling. The album seems perfect for a quiet, rainy morning or a lonely evening, but not for a trendy electronics commercial.
My rating: 8/10