Friday, July 21, 2006

Reviews:: Feist and Trentalange

Today I’m bringing up a chalk-block of female singers whose voice is perfectly crafted for remixes and guest appearances. Feist (the shining star of the Broke Social Scene collective) and Barbara Trentalange (former alum of Crooked Fingers and Spyglass) are on opposite ends of the spectrum with their latest releases.

Feist is riding high after the Let it Die release. Her vocals and arrangements seem timeless and allow her to cross genres and it is why her remix and collaborations album - Open Season – had me asking questions. I assumed Feist’s work works better on its own, so I doubted a disc that had 4 version of one song (her most popular single – Mushaboom) would draw me in. I expected an upbeat, high impact dance session, with her songs receiving the Bluenote jazz revisited series treatment.

Instead, the album is a unique combination of the many sides of Feist. On the Let it Die album, she recorded a cover of the Bee Gees Inside + Out, and when I saw an Apostles of Hustle unmix version of this track, I expected a track tailor made for ravers. Instead, it’s just Feist’s soulful vocals and an out-of-tune guitar. Sparse and powerful, this track is one of my favorites on the record and takes the feel of a jazz singer mouthing lusty vocals in a smoky bar. The same can be said about Gonzales take on the track one evening; a simple a piano riff creates the emotion and nothing else is needed.

The album features remixes and cameos by a lot of big names. The Mushaboom Postal Service mix has been filtering the Internet for quite some time, and I have to say the standard synth/Ben Gibbard vocal template the duo uses is getting a bit tired. It’s a catchy track, but Postal Service doesn’t seem to be working at it as much anymore. After a few listens, I just want to hear the original version of the song. Feist and Jane Birkin combine on the beautiful track, Simple Story. Both vocalists are completely immersed in the track and share the spotlight, instead of fighting for it. It’s a classic after a long evening track and sure to be well played on my back deck this summer.

K-OS also tries his hand at remixing the hit, and I guess I’m biased, but I love his delivery and flow. The simple beat box and his verse adds something new to the song, which is all you can really ask from a remix. Is it better than the original? No, but remixes never really are.

The one upbeat remix that really grabs me is the VV mix of One Evening. It’s got a nice bounce to it without compromising Feist’s vocals and sounds great in headphones. Overall, the CD is good. Some of the tracks are surprising and the sparse arrangements of the opening two tracks make this an album a must fan should grab. Don’t get fooled into thinking this is simply a cash grab.

MP3:: Inside+Out (Apostles of Hustle unmix) – via somevelvet blog
MP3:: Mushaboom (ft. our friend K-OS) – via GWFAS

Then we have Trentalange. I’ll be honest, I’d only really heard of her because of the work she did with Crooked Fingers. She toured with the band for a while supporting the Dignity & Shame release and her vocals were far superior to those record by… well let’s not name names - especially since I love that record. Either way, I was interested to see how her long awaited solo record - photo album of complex relationships - would turn out.

The first song kind of turns me off but as the piano starts on Lonely Land, you really start to understand the strength of her vocals. The imperfections in her voice are what makes Barbara’s vocals sink in. Her voice strains and stretches and you can feel her thoughts with almost every note. I’ve often said that these subtle mistakes are what make a singer great (Nico, Bjork, Marianne Faithful).

Combining cello, drums, piano and flute (and about 15 more instruments) almost forces overproduction, but in most of these tracks, her voice still stands out. Nowhere is this more evident than the track, Monsters. An upbeat drum, piano and haunting strings all enter and exit the track many times, but the vocals provide the feel and structure of the song.

The album is very diverse (the intro to Sweetheart almost sounds like an Eminem track), but Barbara is at her best when the track is upbeat. The driving drums and cello on Take Me Home craft a simple but enjoyable track. Let’s call this what it is: a powerful female voice singing over ambient, multi-instrumented tracks. It’s a type of music that is usually filled with overproduction & studio magic, mistakes and leaves me flat (like those Imogen Heap tracks filled with cheesy guitars). Instead, Trentalange mixes her frailties, flaws and emotion perfectly to create a nice record.

MP3:: Lonely Land

Posted at 6:43 PM by ack :: 2 comments

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At 4:58 PM, Anonymous MTT did sayeth:

That is a powerful song. Where can I hear more?

Thanks MTT


At 7:40 PM, Anonymous ack did sayeth:

For right now, you can stream her album on her web site, but even her PR company only has the one song available for download.

Check out for updates.


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