Monday, 21 December 2009

40. So Sorry, Feist (2007)

I've always been doey-eyed about first lines. I pick up novels just to read their opening sentences again, to hear the syllables taking shape, to feel them curl around my tongue, imagine them spinning into life. "Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they had meant to murder him". I like lines like that best – prosaic, conversational almost, before the sentence ends like the toll of a doomsday bell.

Feist's The Reminder begins this way too. It was the first album I wrote about for a series of reviews for The Guardian website in 2007, playing albums in real time, scribbling down thoughts and ideas as I went. I'd not got round to listening to this record before that cold evening, sitting at my desk staring at the black sky hanging over the Lea, a desklamp burning a halo around me to my left, a strong cup of coffee driving me on to my right. I remember putting my CD in the Mac drive, clicking play, and wondering what lay ahead.

Feist's voice – pure, clear, lovely – cutting through the air with precision but prettiness, strength as well as sweetness. "I'm sorry," she sang, "two words I always think/After you've gone/When I realise I was acting all wrong." Its words dancing up the nape of my neck - there was something about the delicate sadness of that opening sentiment, but the ache of regret weighing down its gentle ebb and flow, that I couldn't shake away. I filed the review the next morning, and took this line with me.

I remember listening to it on my iPod a year later, heading down to the Albert Memorial, meeting Welsh Dan for a picnic on a bright early evening, knocking back plastic glasses of wine, trailing our fingers in the grass, going over a friendship of nearly fifteen years, putting the world to rights. And then the ticket he bought for me for my 30th birthday, the great seats under red and gold and white stone and that glorious organ that I'd first fallen in love with when I was seven, watching my mother sing with the Thousand Voices, feeling so tiny, so in awe. And Feist arriving under it, its pipes glowing in different colours, gazing up at it and feeling so much older now. Realising that here I was, listening to grown-up love songs with someone who had known me as a teenager, come with through my twenties, and was still here as my fourth decade slowly spun into life. And Feist singing that song, her first line ringing out as clear as bell, the full stop disappearing, the story moving on.

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