Let It Die
ou know that scene in Before Sunrise where Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are standing together in the listening booth at that Viennese record shop, both visibly wondering whether or not it’s the right time to make a move, as that song that goes “There’s a wind that blows in from the North…” plays aloud? (The song’s “Come Here” by Kath Bloom, but that’s kind of beside the point of what I’m attempting to get at here.) It’s a wonderful moment, right? Well, wouldn’t it be nice if there was an album that didn’t so much sound like that particular song, but still captured the essence of that classic scene? (The actual Before Sunrise/Before Sunset soundtrack disc, for the record, doesn’t count, as it includes that Austrian Nirvana bar band from the first movie.) Leslie Feist would probably agree with you.
Feist’s Let It Die isn’t about to change the world, or pull up the people, and it might not even save your life. It’s mood music, sure, but more specifically dinner music—really romantic dinner music. Ten years ago (i.e., around the time Before Sunrise came out, the late-formative years of the generation branded ‘X’) we might have even called it “coffeehouse.” This isn’t to imply that the music sounds particularly dated, or overly precious; if Lisa Loeb is roughly comparable, then so is Keren Ann. “Let It Die,” however, might’ve been a not-minor hit in 1990 had Feist beaten Sinead O’ Connor to that Prince cover. Feist is, to be sure, a less emotive singer than O’ Connor, but I still bet she could summon that indelible single tear for her I’m-ready-for-my-close-up-Mr.-DeMille video, probably right around the final go-through of the song’s chorus: “The saddest part of a broken heart [insert tear here] / Isn’t the ending so much as the start.”
Wait. Let’s rewind. Some six minutes before we arrive at the aforementioned title track, Feist has already prompted us to sit up and take notice. The album’s opener, “Gatekeeper,” sounds the way spring weather feels, an ideal complement to a light lunch of, say, broccoli linguini. “Mushaboom,” the next song, is all buttercups and chamomile tea for the first forty seconds or so, and then, all of a sudden, we fall in love: first love, puppy love, getting-to-know-you-as-we-kill-time-before-my-flight-leaves love—not serious, broken-heart love. Or so we naively suspect.
Which brings us back to the point we digressed from a moment ago. After Feist realizes that “after all / It won’t take long to fall in love” and lets it die, comes a stroll along the banks of the Seinne after sunset, during which she concludes, “it could begin and end in one evening.” The next one’s called “Lonely Lonely,” barely a single serving of Easy Mac—sometimes all you can manage to keep down on a lovesick stomach (unless, of course, you’re the eat-your-woes-away, Golden Girls-type).
Things get rougher as we flash back to childhood, with Feist’s Middle Eastern-flavored version of the traditional “When I Was a Young Girl,” an interpretation that would’ve fit comfortably on PJ Harvey’s most underappreciated record, Is This Desire?: “My poor head is achin’ / My sad heart is breakin’ / My body’s salvated / And Hell is my doom.” But as a certain trio of mid-‘90’s-alt-darlings who’ve help up remarkably well will be more than happy to remind you, a woman is not a girl; Feist can show you a thing or two. Covering, of all potential candidates, the Bee-Gees’ “Inside and Out,” Feist saves Let It Die’s undisputed stunner until near the album’s close. It’s her “Baby, you are gonna miss that plane,” and a pretty inspired choice of material come to think of it, adding up to one of the year’s more bewildering pop in-form-if-not-in-reception songs, however lamentably absent from mainstream airwaves (or at least those south of the Mountie-Yankee border). The world would be a thoroughly lovelier place if it saw half as much playtime on the actual radio as it does on my hard drive, but thank heaven for small miracles anyway.
Reviewed by: Josh Timmermann
Reviewed on: 2005-08-01