Gregg Gillis of Girl Talk performs during the Sasquatch! Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington on May 25th, 2012.
One of the more unusual success stories in 2000s' pop music, the singer-songwriter born Leslie Feist has gone from performing with a sock puppet and calling herself Bitch Lap-Lap to becoming the toast of the NPR set with two albums of cooled-down grown-up pop under her birth surname. As a singer, Feist — who was born in Calgary and moved to Toronto as an adult, with stints in Paris and Berlin — possesses a slurry, flexible voice that at times recalls Rickie Lee Jones.
Feist first attracted notice as a teenage punk singer for a group called Placebo (no relation to the British rock band); she then became a guitarist for an outfit named By Divine Right after blowing her voice out. In 1999, while still playing with that Canadian rock band, Feist recorded her first solo album, Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down to little notice. (The disc would become a collectors' item in the wake of her later success.)
Soon after, Feist began working with her roommate, Peaches, the raunchy electro-punk singer (Peaches' eccentric live show is where the sock puppet came into play). The two appeared on 7 Hurtz's cover of Prince's "Sexy Dancer" on the Rex label's 2001 compilation If I Was Prince. Through Peaches, Feist met the producer Gonzales; around this time she also joined the sprawling Toronto band Broken Social Scene, and started guesting live and on the group's albums.
Gonzales and Feist began working together on lower-key, more reflective songs, including cover versions of the Bee Gees' "Love You Inside Out" and Ron Sexsmith's "Secret Heart." This material appeared as Let It Die, first issued in 2004 and a year later in the U.S., where it garnered the singer a devout cult following on the strength of single "Mushaboom." Die wasn't a blockbuster, but it has sold steadily since its release, especially in the wake of its follow-up, The Reminder (Number 16, 2007). That album's lead single, "1234" (Number Eight, 2007), became a hit thanks to exposure in an iPod TV ad and an imaginative video directed by Patrick Daughters featuring a cast of colorfully clad dancers. In 2008, Feist was nominated for four Grammy Awards and won five Juno Awards, including honors for Artist of the Year and Album of the Year.