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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Song by Song: 'Far' by Regina Spektor

A new feature, in which I break down a new release, song by song. This review was also written during the first time I heard this album. Ok, so next up: a woman who Culture Bully says could be described as 'either another Starbucks-friendly piano chanteuse or as another ultra-quirky indie-folk weirdo.' It's Regina Spektor- and it's 'Far'.

1. The Calculation- A very jolly way to start any album. It appears Spektor's been refining her sound- it has all of the playfulness and imagination of her previous work, but the execution has a little more finesse- particularly evident in the vocals. Good stuff so far...

2. Eet- More proof of Spektor's vocal prowess- her voice still has that slightly hiccup-y ebb and flow that make it so original, whilst still being technically very strong. The sort of soaring piano song that we saw on her fourth album, 'Begin to Hope'- keep it coming.

3. Blue Lips- As the title suggests, this one has a slightly darker edge to it- organs, string instruments- not dissimilar to the sound of 'Soviet Kitsch'. However, I think that a little less production and a little more subtlety could've made this song a little more haunting.

4. Folding Chairs-If you've heard about a song off this album already, it's likely to be this one- yeah, it's the one with the random dolphin noises. I don't really know what to make of the dolphin noises- fun, or just stupid? But, as I Guess I'm Floating said: 'at least it's 100% Regina Spektor with all her quirks and inventive perceptions of the world around her'. Too true.

5. Machine- It starts with percussion and piano that have a slight ring of jazz about them (good, if you know how much I love jazz)- then lyrics that seem to be part autobiography of a woman/robot from the future, and part cautionary tale about the dangers of technology. Not a big fan of the chorus, but that's more personal taste than anything else.

6. Laughing With- Not a massive fan of this song, but it is tragically pretty- soft vocals, teamed with a slightly foreboding melody. A song about God is a little unusual- particularly when Spektor mocked religion in 'Baby Jesus'. This song could be much more powerful if there wasn't that drum beat behind it- once again, as with 'Blue Lips', less could've been more.

7. Human of the Year- A little slow to start, but it's quite triumphant eventually. I'm always partial to a good bit of religious imagery, too, which is particularly apt with this song which does have that church-song feel to it.

8. Two Birds- Another piano song. Admittedly, there are some horns, it is a pretty song, but there are usually some pianos or dance elements by this point in her albums. I'm doubting the guitars are ever going to arrive, considering how delicate the previous tracks have been.

9. Dance Anthem of the 80's- Finally, a change in direction! Everyone, to the dancefloor! Admittedly, I think I kind of prefer this remix, but a breath of fresh air nonetheless.

10. Genius Next Door- A tale of suicide turned into folklore. Moving- I love that at the point the boy supposedly dies, you can hear an almost angelic chorus in the instrumental. It's the lyrics that make this song stand out. Even the first line sets this up as a fable- 'Some said the local lake had been enchanted...' Moral of the story, kids: don't drown yourself.

11. Wallet- Basically, 'Ode to a Lost Wallet'- a song about how the small things (in this case, a wallet, surprisingly) in life can hold such significance. A lovely message.

12. One More Time With Feeling- Joyful, lots of pianos. A lovely song, once more, but this album lacks the different levels- the high and lows, the peaks and troughs- of some of her previous albums. Still, the closer could be a roaring masterpiece- it might even have some guitars.

13. Man of a Thousand Faces- Nope.

Overall, it is a beautiful album. Gorgeous imagery, full of Spektor's usual kookiness and tall tales. It's also good to see that the production of Jacknife Lee, David Kahne AND Jeff Lee haven't overpowered the spirit of her music. However, it's not as diverse as I would've hoped- her quirky vocals and superlatively imaginative vocals could've been set to backdrops of guitars and orchestras- but, instead, there's just her and a piano on this stage. And, occasionally, a horn and a dolphin. Could've done with more in some places, and less in others- but very good, still.

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