It seems unlikely that someone who once took the name Bitch Lap-Lap while working with electroclash raunch princess Peaches would become one of the finest contemporary torch singers. But Canada's FEIST, nee Leslie Feist, has made a habit of nonchalantly switching gears: her terrific new album, Let It Die (Cherrytree/Interscope), is a long way from her first punk band, which made its onstage debut after winning a contest to open for the Ramones. Feist moved from Calgary to Toronto in the late 90s, briefly joined the rock band By Divine Right, and eventually became a member of the acclaimed indie-rock outfit Broken Social Scene; she also recorded with Apostle of Hustle and toured with Peaches coconspirator Chilly Gonzales. Her 1999 solo debut, Monarch, didn't attract much attention, but Let It Die, recorded with Gonzales in Feist's new hometown of Paris, rightfully became a sensation in Europe when it was released there last year. The album's final two tracks are songs famously recorded by Blossom Dearie, another North American chanteuse who rose to fame in Paris, and there's a strong dose of chanson-style lyricism throughout. But Feist eschews schmaltzy Left Bank melodrama in favor of a wonderfully breezy spirit--the infectious melodies effortlessly roll off her tongue. On "Mushaboom" she elongates syllables with a quaver that echoes Billie Holiday's; the title track, a slow-burning soul gem that laments an irretrievable first kiss as the "saddest part of a broken heart," does its work with restraint rather than bombast. She brings a gleeful shuffle to Ron Sexsmith's sorrowful "Secret Heart," and her dialed-down cover of the Bee Gees' disco hit "Inside and Out" is pure seduction. Let It Die is easily the best pop album I've heard so far this year. --Peter Margasak
After dodging comparisons to Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen from folks who apparently have trouble distinguishing between the two, BRITISH SEA POWER has now gone full-on Psychedelic Furs. The band's second album, Open Season (Rough Trade), is actually brighter and poppier than the Furs at their friendliest, and front man Yan's delusions of Richard Butler are delightful. Some young director should dub his new teen-angst flick "Please Stand Up," swipe the BSP song of the same name for the sound track, and secure his place in the nostalgia people will be feeling for this decade in 20 years. --Keith Harris
British Sea Power headlines, Feist plays second, and Scotland Yard Gospel Choir opens. Thu 5/19, 8:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $12 in advance, $14 at the door. All ages.