Release Date: Jun 23, 2009
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative, Singer-Songwriter
Review Summary: The simple fact behind Regina Spektor's music is that she can do no wrong.The only bad thing about Far is that it took too long to make. Three years? Come on. Especially considering the fact that she's been playing some of these songs live for a few years now. "Blue Lips" was my favorite Regina song even before I knew it was going to be on this album.
T ired of her peculiar singer-songwriter pop being a fringe taste, the Russian-born New Yorker's gone for the commercial jugular, polishing her strangeness with help from ELO's Jeff Lynne among others..
What if you found a sweet-looking older man’s wallet in the street? Or the local lake turned as thick as butter? What if there really was a ‘human of the year’ contest? Or you inexplicably forgot the words to your favourite song? Such are the scenarios posited on Far, and objectivity be-damned: I absolutely, completely adore Regina Spektor. Certainly a little bit when I was introduced to her via a friend’s copy of Soviet Kitsch; a little bit more when said album received an unprecedented three consecutive plays on a communal stereo soon after; more still when she captivated a half-full Cardiff Barfly around five years ago, and reaching titanic levels when I attempted to interview her over a crackling phone line some time later. That the cute puppies occupying the lorry next to her proved a significant distraction made no odds: she is charm personified, and I’d wager that’s why so many other self-respecting indie kids love her too.
Regina Spektor’s schtick has always been otherworldly piano-driven pop, which is perhaps what makes her music so appealing. Drawing from her Russian-Bronx roots and attracting an anti-folk audience, Spektor has not only a distinct talent for tearing up a piano and vocally hitting each note to perfection, but also a special way with words and descriptors.Spektor’s music in its earliest form began with minimalist approach, depending on only her voice and piano. Spektor’s earliest albums chronicled the peculiar and endearing things in life (reading with a jar of pickles) and New York in summertime (means cleavage, cleavage, cleavage).
Soviet-born New Yorker Regina Spektor has the kind of bright, commercial voice that could easily win her a spot on American Idol, but she's far more of an "artiste" than that. She's capable of Mariah vocal gymnastics, but her style is idiosyncratic, full of surprising twists and colourful lyrical enjambment. The anti-folkie's stripped-down piano pop is major-chord cheerful yet thick with thoughtful content.
On a quirkiness scale, Regina Spektor ranks just above rainbow suspenders. It’s her jaunty piano rags, which beg someone to dance the Charleston. Or perhaps it’s that, on Far‘s ”Folding Chair,” she literally sings like a dolphin. But playing the freak also makes her blissfully unself-conscious, and that can be contagious.
What does one do when faced with a spirit as elemental and electric as Regina Spektor? The natural response is an awestruck infatuation, at least if you’re a guy of a certain age. I’m not immune. I remember seeing her perform at a homecoming show at the Warsaw in Brooklyn. Afterwards, she swept past in a blur of red lipstick/brown curls, and my companion reflexively stuck out a hand.
Regina Spektor worked with no less than four big-name producers on Far, all of them with very different backgrounds: David Kahne was her collaborator on 2006's Begin to Hope; Garret "Jacknife" Lee counts R.E.M. and U2 among his credits; Jeff Lynne's lavish sound is famous on ELO's albums; and Mike Elizondo has worked with Fiona Apple and Maroon 5. It's something of a surprise, then, that Far sounds so homogenized.
Regina Spektor is such a polarising character that those not instantly smitten by her piano-tinkling cutesiness are unlikely ever to be, no matter how often her songs pop up on cult American TV dramas. The follow-up to 2006's Begin to Hope is shinier, thanks to co-producer Jeff Lynne, but just as whimsical. Sometimes too whimsical. It's a toss-up whether she's more irritating pretending to be a robot amid the electro-clatter of Machine or twittering "My eyelashes catch my sweat/ Yes, they do/ They do-oo-oo" on the classically twee Folding Chair.
You probably knew this girl in high school. She made her own clothes, scrawled in notebooks, was quiet, but vivacious, involved, but only on her own terms. She was different, liked being that way and wanted people to know it, however much she feigned indifference. Regina Spektor is that girl ….
Singular artist diluted by too many cooksThe turn of the 21st century wasn’t exactly the best time to be a girl with a piano. After holding court throughout the 1990s, ivory queen Tori Amos had slipped off Scarlet’s Walk after Strange Little Girls, leaving Vanessa Carlton mewling in her wake and Fiona Apple floundering for another five years in label limbo. So the emergence of the Moscow-born, Bronx-raised Regina Spektor and her 2004 Sire Records debut, Soviet Kitsch, wasn’t so much a breath of fresh air as it was a much-needed swig of whatever potato-brewed goodness Spektor was chugging on her album cover.
Regina Spektor is 29 years old. I point this out because on her newest album, Far, Spektor alternately imitates dolphin noises, talks about making a computer out of macaroni pieces, and fashions a refrain out of repetitions of the non-word "eet." And that's just within the first four songs. Over the course of three proper studio albums and various other tangential releases, Regina Spektor has demonstrated a solid sense of popcraft and an occasional ability to capture slices of life in charmingly non-conventional ways.