By James Rickman

Previously in this series, James listened to Wilco’s The Whole Love en route to a show in Toronto. We join him now on his way home.

Back on American soil. Shattered, thanks to an all-night speakeasy that a waiter at our show had told us about. I had refused to sit out any rounds, even though the guy buying them, our singer, is six inches taller than I am and Australian. This same singer, totally unaffected by the vats of lager he'd ingested on the other side of dawn and the Canada-America border, puts on Feist’s new album, Metals.

It begins quietly, which is good. I had put on the Descendents’ ALL as we pulled out of Toronto, but that only added to my suspicion that someone had stuck a pushpin through my left eyebrow while I slept.

“Bring ‘em all back to life,” she chants in the second song, even more lowdown than the first. I start thinking back to Feist’s breakout year. LikeYankee Hotel FoxtrotThe Reminder was absorbed by most of us simply by having been alive at the time of its release. Shops, apartments and TV networks all seemed to play it on a loop. For a little while, it was the score to everything.

So I’m surprised to find Metals serving up one dirge after another. Feist’s voice could make a Burzum song buoyant, but here she’s surrounded it with thundering toms, plodding horns, and guitars as stark as PJ Harvey’s on To Bring You My Love. In fact, Harvey’s spooky middle years hang over the whole album. I love that sound, but maybe it’s best experienced at night, in one’s room. Not so much in a van that keeps passing red barns, silos, and...were those llamas?

Metals could function as a flawless makeout album—with two exceptions. The chorus of “A Commotion” sounds like Agnostic Front had wandered into the vocal booth; and “Undiscovered First” lurches into a growling, stomping waltz. Otherwise, the resolutely doleful mood has the guys up front calling out, “Change gears, Feist.”

The album ends—“Get it right, get it right, get it right”—and our drummer puts on Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, a learning curve-free album if ever there was one. Metals will take some time, but it’s time I’m willing to spend (ideally without the accompaniment of a skull-cracking hangover)—time, I’m sure, many of us will invest, once we accept that this particular followup is morePinkerton than Neon Bible. Feist has years to create the work that synthesizes Metals and “My Moon.”