Leslie Feist's unexpected march to the pop charts with 2007's The Reminder seems to have sent her running for cover. Her contrarian third album tones down the hooks in favor of a series of ponderous mood pieces, preoccupied with spaciousness and unison. Opener "The Bad in Each Other" is a filmic, arena-sized lament, while the irresistible "How Come You Never Go There" recasts Feist's sensual balladry of yore with pensive drama. Elsewhere, her new predilection for vocal tricks and harmonics falls back on a voice that's come incredibly far; the range and command she exhibits on "Comfort Me" is leagues beyond her earlier work.
When Feist buckles down for the meandering ballads that comprise the bulk of the album, the sameness is suffocating, the pacing and tension arduous; "Graveyard" takes three minutes to build to its ominous choral climax, and "Caught a Long Wind" takes four to get to its stark, pounding gospel fade, both bursts of energy all too brief. On outlier "A Commotion" — fierce violins, boisterous chanting — Feist isn't just confident and in control, she's having fun. Metals has little room for such looseness, and it's missed terribly.