Saturday, May 15, 2021

Countdown to 30: My Favorite Album From 2004


In 2004, Leslie Feist (or simply Feist as she is known to most) released her second solo album, Let it Die. Feist sold her first solo album Monarch at Broken Social Scene shows for a from 1999-2001, and she was finally ready for an album with a wider release. 

Let it Die is blend of indie rock, jazz, and bossa nova. It was identified as one of the best Canadian pop albums of 2004, and ended up winning two Juno awards in 2005 (Best Alternative Album and Best New Artist). In 2012, NOW Magazine ranked Let It Die as 4th on list of The 50 Best Toronto Albums Ever. The Canadian version of the album is a little different from the versions other countries got, so for the record, I will be talking about the American edition of Let it Die

The album contains many original Feist tracks  (or tracks cowritten by Feist), with covers taking up the latter half of the album. As far as original Feist pieces, "Mushaboom" is a strong, jazzy contribution. Mushaboom is the name of the villiage in Nova Scotia in which Feist was born and the song also plays on the syllables "sh-boom," a popular fifties pop chant. Title track "Let it Die" is a beautiful jazz tune about the inevitable ending of a relationship. As covers go, you can't beat Feist's "Inside and Out," her version of the Bee Gees tune "Love You Inside Out," a dreamy cover with electronic elements that bring the track into the 21st century. Well, you can barely beat it with "Secret Heart," a cover of a Ron Sexsmith track about expressing your hidden emotions. Thank you for asking- yes, it made it onto one of my fanmixes.

I listened to this album many times over, and am the proud owner of the Vinyl Me Please reissue on colored vinyl. However, another female solo artist just barely edged Feist out for my favorite album of 2004.

Eye to the Telescope is the debut album by Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall. Obviously, it is my pick for favorite album of 2004. 

You probably know who KT Tunstall is, but even if you don't, you definitely know either "Suddenly I See" or "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree." When you listen to the album though, it seems as though any of the songs could have been either singles or tunes from a soundtrack. 

"Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" features the Bo Diddley beat. It saw a great deal of success here in the U.S. after Katherine McPhee chose to sing in on the 5th season of American Idol. It went from 79 all the way up to #20 in the Billboard charts, becoming Tunstall's highest ranking single to date. 

The other popular single from the album here in the U.S. was "Suddenly I See," thanks to its use in The Devil Wears Prada. "Suddenly I See" is about the way the photo of Patti Smith on her album Horses made KT Tunstall realize that she wanted pursue a career in music. The lyrics lent themselves well the the film about making it in the fashion world. 

"Other Side of the World" (much like the runner-up album for 2003) is about a long-distance relationship. Allegedly, two of Tunstall's friends were attempting to date long distance, inspiring this tragic song about how "the fire fades away//and most of every day//is full of tired excuses."

The songs on the album dart back and forth between sounding acoustic and sounding more intense. Tunstall's rich alto voice works its way through her catchy melodies with ease.

I believe this was taken on my first day
of 8th grade, 2004.
I was among the many exposed to Tunstall through The Devil Wears Prada but evidently among the few in the U.S. who became obsessed with her further discography. A trip to the public library yielded both this album and Drastic Fantastic, meaning I got to hear both lyrically and musically complex albums. I love Tunstall's songwriting, her sense of humor, and I certainly would call Eye to the Telescope a near-perfect album. "Under the Weather" was an early favorite on mine. I love the way it musically emulates a rainy day. A couple of the songs made it onto a fanmix or two, but I'm going to stop telling you which ones.

Tunstall is one of my favorite artists to sing at karaoke, and since the tracks you can find in the songbooks are usually "Suddenly I See" or "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree," I have gotten pretty intimately familiar with those tracks. My other signature is off of her second album, and I sang it for my senior year singing scholarship competition.

During college, I went to very few shows, with Tunstall's being one of them. I've since seen her twice more, once as an opener for The Barenaked Ladies and Better Than Ezra, and another time as the opener for Squeeze. I'll actually be seeing her again in August *fingers crossed* as she will be opening for Hall & Oates and Squeeze then!

Eye to the Telescope is fantastic start-to-finish, and it's a great place to start checking out Tunstall's discography.

Let's see it on that leaderboard!

Join me tomorrow for my favorite album from 2005.

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