With Metals, Feist responds to the surprise success of 2007’s The Reminder with a whisper, not a bang. She treads lightly through a series of disjointed torch songs and smoky pop/rock numbers, singing most of the songs in a soft, gauzy alto, as though she’s afraid of waking some sort of slumbering beast. Whenever the tempo picks up, so does Feist’s desire to keep things weird, with songs like “A Commotion” pitting pizzicato strings against a half-chanted, half-shouted refrain performed by an army of male singers. But Metals does its best work at a slower speed, where Feist can stretch her vocals across fingerplucked guitar arpeggios and piano chords like cotton. “Cicadas and Gulls,” with its simple melodies and pastoral ambience, rides the same summer breeze as Iron & Wine, and “Anti-Pioneer” breaks down the blues into its sparsest parts, retaining little more than a sparse drumbeat and guitar until the second half, where strings briefly swoon into the picture like an Ennio Morricone movie soundtrack. They’re gone after 30 seconds, though, leaving things as quiet as they began. Like the rest of the subdued track list, “Anti-Pioneer” is unlikely to find itself featured in an iPod commercial, meaning Feist’s days as a provider of hip, trendy TV jingles may be over. Still, there’s a soft-spoken power to Metals, even if its songs are more liquid and atmospheric than the title suggests.
Sony’s triple-disc 2010 set The Music of Dan Fogelberg is a thorough budget-line retrospective of the singer/songwriter’s career. Most of Fogelberg’s hits are bunched on the first disc (and they’re almost all here, outside of some smaller hits like “Lost in the Sun” and “Down the Road”), leaving space on the rest of the compilation for fan favorites and album tracks. While this may not be assembled with the kind of exacting touch that characterizes bigger, more expensive box sets, it offers a generous portion of Fogelberg’s best music at a nice price.
Finian Greenhall, who records under the name Fink, has gone full circle at least once over the course of his music career, starting out as a guitar-playing indie popster, then immersing himself in techno, then picking up the guitar again and heading back into singer/songwriter territory. This four-track EP features dubwise remixes of four tracks from Fink's album Sort of Revolution; that album found him blending his songwriting skills with his techno background, and the remixes (by modern dubmeister Sideshow) take four tracks from the album and present them in stark, stripped-down versions that expose their skeletons while tearing Fink's voice into delicate wisps and blowing them around the room on wafting breezes of echo and delay. "Sort of Dubolution" is perhaps the most explicitly reggae-flavored of the four tracks, but all of them draw deeply on reggae's dub tradition by eliminating some musical elements, pushing others to the fore, and manipulating them in ways that can create an almost unrecognizable derivative of the original. In this case, the mix that works most beautifully is "Sort of Dubolution"; the one that creates the least interest is "Q&A." But all four are very much worth hearing.