Monday, June 29, 2009

Review: Regina Spektor - Far (* * * 1/2)

Regina Spektor has always been difficult to pigeonhole, creating quirky pop music that falls somewhere between radio-friendly piano rock and avant-garde anti-folk depending on the album and the song. Her latest, Far, feels like a step toward the former genre, but the thirteen tracks contain more than a few moments of grin-inducing weirdness that give the album the dose of Spektor's unique character so endearing to her fans. Far isn't especially consistent, but there's enough solid material here to warrant at least a few listens to find it.

The opening three-song set has the album's most approachable and perhaps best material, led by the bouncy "The Calculation," a sugary pop tune that relies more on hooks than kookiness. Following are "Eet" and "Blue Lips" which slow things down perhaps too early in the record, but both are such excellent songs it doesn't matter much. The ballads shifts smoothly between tempos and intensity as Spektor unfolds her strangely beautiful narratives while still maintaining a relatively restrained, 'less is more' attitude.

The remaining ten songs are slightly more mixed in their success but also a great deal of fun, making up for the lack of weirdness exhibited in the early tracks by adding dolphin noises ("Folding Chair"), stories of kids watching each other eat ("Dance Anthem of the '80s"), and an appropriately goofy mechanical approach to " Machine." Still, Spektor is a strong songwriter at her best when she leaves the songs in their simplicity, allowing her mix of emotion and wit to shine without distraction.

Far is something of a grower which may be a frustrating concept to some, but though it doesn't quite reach the heights of Begin to Hope, it at least maintains Regina Spektor's unique spot in the singer/songwriter genre. Check her out on MySpace and/or watch the video from "Man of a Thousand Faces: below.

Man of a Thousand Faces