Why I’m obsessed with Feist’s “Undiscovered First”

I’m pretty obsessed with “Undiscovered First” by Feist.  It is, hands down, my favourite song from Metals – and I don’t say that lightly.  In my humble opinion, the album is brilliant from start to finish.

Why I’m in the grip of “Undiscovered First”:

  1. The tension.  My curiosity was immediately piqued from the intro.  It begins so sparsely and so organically, I had goosebumps in anticipation of how the song would build up and unfold.
  2. The time signature.  It puts me under a spell.  At first I thought it was in 3/4, but now I’m certain it’s in 9/8 (or at least the chorus).  It took me several listens to really be able to follow the phrasing, and I liked that little challenge.  The unusual time signature makes the song that much more interesting.
  3. The vocals.  Feist’s voice soars so effortlessly and prettily around notes higher than I would even think of attempting, and I find she tends to return to a certain few of those higher notes in many of her songs.  I enjoy hearing her sing in the lower range of her register in this song.  I also think Feist is a master of vocal restraint (the desirable kind).  This adds another element of tension which, for me, is released when she sings, “Is this the right mountain for us to climb?  Is this the way to live for you to be mine?”  I also love the yell she gives right before going into the second chorus (around 2:20).
  4. The harmonies.  They are divine, both the actual notes and the texture of them.  So soft and airy, yet not too thin.  If it were possible to wear harmonies, then I would like to be swaddled in these ones.
  5. The percussion.  The rattlesnake shake of the tambourine is just so good!  Perfect for the song.  Gets me every time!  I didn’t think I would ever feel so passionately about a tambourine part.  The stomping is also perfect for the song.  These two elements feel so organic and really add to the imagery of the mountaineers.
  6. The production.  I love the horn arrangement from 2:59 – 2:34 and how it complements the guitar parts, especially in timbre and rhythm.  The fat, heavy, gritty sounding climax towards the end (around 3:36) is so raunchy and provides the perfect release from the song’s build-up while balancing the high-end vocals.  Then, to top it all off, the song ends with the slightly haunting reverb of Feist asking, “Is this the way you live?  Is it wrong to want more?”

What a song!  I’d love to know how it was written and hear a stripped-down version.  “Undiscovered First” and all the other songs on Metals really bring out the repressed musician and songwriter in me… But that’s another post entirely.