(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, January 18, 2010

CD review - Regina Spektor, Far (2009)

Regina Spektor is a quite interesting piano-based singer/songwriter with her own vocal style. She is usually direct, often playful, and occasionally coy. Her voice reflects Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, Bjork, and Tori Amos. The Tori Amos link seems most relevant for Far, given some of the edgier arrangements, but Spektor mines a brighter vein than Amos.

A great example of the contrast is on the first single, Laughing With, which could easily be a Tori Amos song. The piano arrangement is simple and clear. It's a song about irony: "No one laughs at God in a hospital...", "but God can be funny". It's really more about us humans than about God. If Amos had written this, the focus would have gone the other way.

Another cool song was Blue Lips, which has a nice collection of sections from simple to orchestral to pop. The vocals convey an emotional distance that matches the lyrics. It also has the best line of the album: "Blue - the most human color".

Machine features material recorded with David Byrne's art sound installation, "Playing the Building". The vibe is detached and slightly threatening; the ghost of Laurie Anderson hides in the background. It's very interesting, but it doesn't really fit the flow of the album. Especially coming right after the retro feel of Folding Chair.

This is symptomatic of the problem with Far: there are too many producers. Spektor worked with several great talents here, like Mike Elizondo and Jeff Lynne, and she wrote some good songs, but the album lacks a coherent feel or flow. This is easier to accept on a greatest hits album. Instead, the main consistency is her quirky voice, which is not enough to make Far stand up well against her earlier work.

This is best paired with an aromatic herbal tea, maybe something like a cardamom tisane.

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