Spotlight Album Review #18

Reviewed on this page:

Canadian singer Leslie Feist (who uses just her last name as her artist moniker) has gained deserved fame during this millennium, first as a sometime member of the loose Canadian collective Broken Social Scene, and more recently as a solo artist. On her albums Let It Die (2004) and The Reminder (2007), Feist has created her own brand of modern jazz-pop which has found a sizable audience. Her little-known first solo effort was actually recorded at the end of the last millennium. Monarch Lay Your Jewelled Head Down was an independent CD which was sold primarily at shows, and (of course) that CD is now out of print.

Monarch Lay Your Jewelled Head Down was recorded when Feist was in her early 20's and was still finding her voice -- in more than one sense of the term. Feist had strained her vocal cords while touring with a hard rock band called Placebo (no relation to the U.K. band of the same name), and she was changing her musical direction. This album was recorded after Feist received a Canadian government grant which she did not expect to qualify for. (She was even able to make a video for "It's Cool To Love Your Family", the album's genial lead-off track). So, in other words, Monarch was an album which Feist recorded mainly because she could. Still, even though the album is sometimes amateurish and somewhat uneven, many of its tracks are quite good.

The sounds on Monarch Lay Your Jewelled Head Down are not entirely removed from Feist's more recent work, but it is very much a product of its time. Feist seemed to be emulating several female alternative artists from the Lilith Fair era, including Sarah McLachlan ("That's What I Say, It's Not What I Mean"), Björk ("Monarch"), Fiona Apple ("New Torch"), Heather Nova ("The Onliest"), and Beth Orton ("La Sirena"). In any case, the young unsigned musician clearly worked hard to create a respectable set of arty songs. "It's Cool To Love Your Family" and "Flight #303" feature reasonably catchy sing-along hooks. On "The Onliest" and "Monarch", Feist used strings to achieve an ethereal effect, and succeeded well enough. But the most transcendent and creative track is "La Sirena", with its quirky ambient sounds. Feist also gets good mileage from a conventional guitar-bass-and-drums rock sound on "One Year A.D." The album unfortunately turns stale in its final third. "Still True" sounds strained and shapeless, and "The Mast" definitely needs more wind in its sails. Even though these later tracks leave something of a bad aftertaste, the better moments on Monarch make it a worthwhile find for Feist's current fans.

Note: In 2012, Feist reissued the album on vinyl on her own imprint (Feist Music FEIM-019) as a limited edition item sold through her official site.

Track Listing:

1. It's Cool To Love Your Family
2. The Onliest
3. La Sirena
4. One Year A.D.
5. Monarch
6. That's What I Say, It's Not What I Mean
7. Flight #303
8. Still True
9. The Mast
10. New Torch

A review of the 2012 Feistodon single


Other Spotlight Album Reviews:

#1: Sigur Ros - "Von" (1997)

#2: Various Artists - "Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea" (1981)

#3: Gerry Goffin - "It Ain't Exactly Entertainment" (1973)

#4: Graces - "Perfect View" (1989)

#5: Genesis - "Calling All Stations" (1997)

#6: hindu love gods (1990)

#7: Various Artists - "Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970" (1996)

#8: Distractions - "Nobody's Perfect" (1980)

#9: Deconstruction (1994)

#10: Juicy Groove - "First Taste" (1978)

#11: Emmylou Harris - "Gliding Bird" (1969)

#12: Various Artists - "Beyond The Wildwood: A Tribute To Syd Barrett" (1987)

#13: Candy - "Whatever Happened To Fun..." (1985)

#14: RTZ - "Return To Zero" (1991)

#15: Klark Kent - "Kollected Works" (1995)

#16: Various Artists - "Rainy Day" (1984)

#17: Alex Chilton - "1970" (1996)

#19: Attila (1970)

#20: Slipknot - "Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat." (1996)

#21: Eyes Adrift (2002)

#22: Stoney and Meatloaf (1971)

#23: Elliott Murphy - "Aquashow" (1973)

#24: Evanescence - "Origin" (2000)