Feist — “1234”

Released: 7.15.07

Peak: #8

God knows there have been times I’ve wished Leslie Feist’s voice crisper, warmer, jauntier. “Mushaboom” was the ideal showcase for her upscale bohemian flirtiness, right down to its self-descriptive title; her carelessly re-named take on Bee Gees’ “Love You Inside Out” blurred away the song’s edges at the expense of its emotional core. Yet both success and failure marked Feist as an impressive vocal stylist rather than a bona fide interpreter of material. And that style, casual and gorgeous in equal and complementary measures, was so understandably integral to her appeal to fans she’d haven been a dope to listen to the wishes of mere admirers like me.

Still, funny what the right song can do. On “1234” Feist’s soft-focus burr keeps in check a playfulness that a chirpier gal would have allowed to ripen to insipid tweedle. Co-written with Sally Seltman of New Buffalo, “1234” is as simple as a children’s song, as instantly memorable, and as unable to conceal its bittersweet undercurrent. As Feist longs for the warmth of her former romantic naïvete, the church-basement air of the production, from its choppy acoustic guitar intro to its brassy Beatles ’67 close, grows as wistful as it is whimsical.

Feist’s dancing has its charms, as does her video–even though, like so many, it compromises emotional ambiguity for the sake of good times. And only a real dick would begrudge Feist her iPod money, or blame her for re(de)fining a particularly marketing-friendly indie preciousness. Maybe without “1234,” no one would ever have greenlit those grisly Pomplamoose ads for Hyundai. But that’s hardly the worst reality that teenage hopes have grown to encompass.

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