Regina Spektor – FarPosted: 07/08/2009
Regina Spektor once happily existed in that ilk of musicians filed under the, ‘My Little Secret’ category. A choice and highly personal grouping that will find many an acquaintance reeling from odd lyrics, awkward vocal delivery and generally obscure and inaccessible musical style. With her previous album, Begin to Hope, any chance of maintaining a place within this bracket was gone, and suddenly all and sunder are asking whether you’ve heard of a kooky Russian-come-Brooklynite named Regina. Oh dear.
Upon hearing the first few piano chords chime through the speakers on ‘The Calculation’, one may be forgiven for primarily assuming Regina Spektor has abandoned subtle childlike nuances in favour of pursuing a course in toddler TV-show music. Alas, this assumption is quickly rendered groundless, and indeed the snapping piano and plodding bass line begin to play delightfully under Spektor’s vocal and quickly lead to an enchanting chorus.
Songs such as ‘Blue Lips’ and ‘Wallet’ demonstrate how Spektor’s songwriting and composition have matured since Soviet Kitsch, while still largely comprised of the delicate and strange stock elements that make Regina Spektor vocals so compelling (Yes, there’s beatboxing). ‘Machine’, with its use of ominous chords and quirky lyrical overtones, once again marks Spektor as an entirely captivating artist. She delicately emphasizes each syllable for the repetition of “Hooked into machine”, repeating from falsetto to baritone (Or is it Basso Profundo?). It’s abrasive, often mechanical and brilliantly weird. Spektor continues to write lyrics about God and religion, elements that have previously played a key role in her music. Songs such as ‘Laughing With’ and ‘Human of the Year’ carry strong religious messages.
Despite the employment of three different producers, Far remains a more focussed collection of tracks compared to its predecessor. Songs now possess a fuller quality. Where previously sparse – a drumstick on a chair once providing the beat – her songs are now boosted by orchestral arrangements. ‘Human of the Year’ and ‘Genius Next Door’ are beautifully capacious, while comprising of several grandiose musical pieces, building from delicate sweeping odes to epic crescendos. Final song, ‘Man of a Thousand Faces’ is stunning, and reminiscent of the Danny Elfman soundtrack for Edward Scissorhands, albeit with lyrics.
While many of the songs employ choral echoes to bolster her vocals and piano, songs such as ‘Folding Chair’, Two Birds’ and ‘One More Time With Feeling’ feature Spektor with a backing band. This is where Begin to Hope often faltered and Far succeeds. Here, making use of instruments other than a piano doesn’t seem so awkwardly placed, and the addition compliments the songs neatly.
Overall, Far benefits from the personal, quirky and frequently pious subject matter that made her so appealing on previous releases, while utilizing the production values of Begin to Hope, creating an album that will please both existing fans, and no doubt make her more palatable for the masses.