Over the course of four albums, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Leslie Feist has delved into everything from anthemic rock to hushed chamber pop. In 2008, her record “The Reminder” earned her a couple of Grammy nominations. She’s also part of Canadian indie rock collective Broken Social Scene.
She just released her first album in six years called, “Pleasure.” Below, Feist DJs a dinner party soundtrack that’ll bring a chill to your springtime parties.
Les Filles de Illighadad – “Inigradan”
Feist: In this challenge to curate a dinner party, I’m picturing my house in Toronto. It’s usually the winter. There’s a gang of us complicit sort of weather escaping minds that come. And it’s kind of a gentle warming affair. To set that scene, here’s my dinner party soundtrack.
This song is called “Inigradan” by Les Filles de Illighadad. It’s these two amazing women from Niger. I think they’re sisters. But they’re from a small village.
I found a YouTube video of them sitting underneath some dusty tree surrounded by people just sitting, listening. Some singing along, some playing different drums. And I know that’s really rare in Niger for women to play guitar, so their absolute supremacy of expression in this way [is] so beguiling.
You can just hear the hours of honest focus. Like there’s a lot of time taken. There’s a commitment to finding these interconnecting rhythms. I feel her focus and I feel the naturalness of it.
Ahmad Jamal Trio – “Poinciana”
Given that the sun sets at basically 4 p.m. in the winter in Toronto. It’s pitch black out. It’s freezing cold. People are arriving and stomping off their boots at the bottom of the stairs. Lots of thick wool sweaters. It’s mellow. I have a low-lighting kind of rule in my house. Someone is pouring wine. It’s like an industrious focus on taking our sweet time.
This next song is “Poinciana” by the Ahmad Jamal Trio. And they were like a house band I guess at Pershing which is a jazz club in Chicago.
In retrospect, I realize it was the drumbeat that led me towards the piano. I recently looked it up and it was a guy named Vernel Fournier who had just joined his trio. He is a bouncy, repetitive, interlocking spine of the whole thing.
There’s something I respect about a live recording. I mean, they weren’t approaching their commitment to what they’re doing as background music. But as you can hear in the recording, there’s chatting going on and people are experiencing it as background music.
It’s like it’s robust enough that it survives any amount of background. It’s so committed to that there’s no feeling that you’re in some way belittling it or insulting it by just having it make your atmosphere for you.
Dan Misha Goldman – “Hollywood Jerusalem”
At this point, there’s tiny little glass cups of rooibos tea going around. And so, the perfect song for this part of the night — because he says so even himself that it’s a bit of a narcotic lounging album — is a song by Dan Misha Goldman called “Hollywood Jerusalem.”
He’s a friend, full disclosure. He’s a good friend of mine and we’ve actually played together in the past. Dan, he’s always percolating, working away on his own thing and it’s quite secretive. I know he does a lot of film soundtrack stuff, so I think he’s pulling in that scope that you bring to cinema.
This project of Dan’s I feel is committing to something free of the constraints maybe of typical song form and I was really taken by the orchestration. And this song in particular, knowing that as a Montreal/Torontonian transplanted to California, he had this perspective on L.A. in general.
Feist – “Get Not High, Get Not Low”
Given that the sun sets early, and then the sun rises late in the winter, it’s a strange different sense of time. And so I find that in the winter, people stay later. And if you successfully fed and beveraged people on comfy cushions and stuff with this kind of music playing, then the tea will probably just keep going.
Really verboten to play your own music at your own party, but if I was to, maybe once everyone left, the only one from my own record that would have belonged in this family of songs would be “Get Not High, Get Not Low.”
The song “Get Not High, Get Not Low,” it was instructions to my future self. I tend towards swinging like a pendulum to these extremes. And I’d learned, if you’re swinging to each extreme and you’re there so briefly, in a way, you’re skimming the surface of each extreme. The middle way, this kind of investing in some type of stability, or some kind of calm, or even the cultivation of what a night like this would take, and the friendships that it indicates, that’s the kind of thing you only get when you don’t get high, don’t get low, and you double down in the middle there. You can go much deeper.