Album Reviews: Open Season by FeistThe great paradox of the remix album, usually, is this: The better the source material, the more disappointing the remix album. After all, why bother reworking material that was pretty good to begin with? The results tend to be the musical equivalent of New Coke -- a bland reinvention of an old favorite.
Considering this, it's a pleasant surprise that Feist's "remixes and collabs" album Open Season is not only very good -- it's almost as entertaining as her stunning debut Let It Die, the album on which most of Open Season is based. If nothing else, it's much more diverse than your average remix album. Yes, there are four different versions of "Mushaboom," but there are also three tracks featuring Leslie Feist guest singing on other people's music (the highlight: Feist in full-blown sex-kitten mode on a cover of Peaches' "Lovertits"), and two tracks that are more deconstructions that traditional remixes -- an instrumental piano version of "One Evening" and an acoustic "unmix" of "Inside+Out" that trumps the original thanks to Feist's gorgeously vulnerable vocal. All this additional material adds a depth and freshness to Open Season that many remix albums sorely lack.
But fear not, remix fans -- the standard-issue programmed beats are here in abundance, though thankfully executed with more grace and restraint than on your typical remix set. Most are the work of the frequent Feist collaborator Gonzalez, working under the name VV with his partner Renaud Letang; all are solid, but two other tracks ultimately steal the show. One is the Postal Service remix of "Mushaboom," a symphony of trembling synths complete with Ben Gibbard's wide-eyed vocals sneaking in next to Feist's. The other, surprisingly, is an airy, trip-hoppy remix of "Lonely Lonely" that, if Feist's liner notes are to be believed, someone tossed onstage on an unmarked CD during a show in London. Called the "Frisbee'd Mix," it's an exemplary deconstruction of a great pop song into a haunting, atmospheric tone poem of looped beats and melancholy chords. It could be the work of someone like Hint or even Lemon Jelly, but who knows? Maybe it really is some anonymous bedroom remixer who's just a really big Feist fan.
Not everything on Open Season works; VV's clunky attempt at a club-friendly remix of "Mushaboom" falls short, and the usually reliable k-os stumbles over the same track, slapping a heavy-handed hip-hop beat over it that grates against the lightness of Feist's vocal. Ultimately, there's something about Leslie Feist's voice that just doesn't lend itself to modern dance beats -- there's an intimacy and fragility to her delivery that's better suited to softer, jazzier sounds. Fortunately, most of the arrangements on Open Season take this into account, which is another reason why it's that rare remix album that feels less like a detour and more like a natural extension of Feist's work. - Andy Hermann
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