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Variety Is The Spice Of Life

By Lizzie Borden | Music | August 12, 2009 |

By Lizzie Borden | Music | August 12, 2009 |

regina-spektor-far-album-cover-myspace.jpgRegina Spektor: Far
[Sire Records]

I picked up Regina Spektor’s Far because there was, yanno, that one song from her last album? The one that was really sweet and got a lot of play on VH1 at about five thirty in the morning when I was on the treadmill (along with that song with Justin Timberlake and T.I.) (by the way, I’m referring to “Fidelity”). I thought it was a lovely little song, so I figured I’d give her a shot, though as she doesn’t wear much black or use a synth, she’s not my usual musical fare.

Initially, the album struck me as very light hearted and happy. But I’m not sure ‘happy’ is quite the right adjective. It is definitely quite earnest and sweet, though. Not quite like anything I normally listen to, so I have a real hard time classifying it. I guess I’d call it indie pop, if such a thing exists. She’s mostly pretty upbeat and easy to listen to. It’s the sort of album you’d pop in at during a dinner party for some background music that would help keep the mood light, but wouldn’t require anyone to really listen to it.

The album gets off to an upbeat start with “The Calculation”, a pleasant little love song. The math metaphor is cute. She continues with “Eet”, which reminds me, oddly enough, of a Raffi song. If you have kids, you might know who Raffi is, or you might remember him from your own childhood like I do. He had this one song, “Apples and Bananas”, that was about those fruits, but also about vowels. The song cycled through all the vowels, substituting them for those in apples and bananas (eeples and beneenees, etc). Regina’s song itself really has absolutely nothing at all to do with this, but it plays in the ear like a celebration of the letter ‘e’, if you listen to it lightly.

After “Eet” the album takes a bit of a brooding turn with “Blue Lips”. The song matches its title: it sounds blue without really feeling depressing. It’s simply a more contemplative tune, not as upbeat as the previous tracks. Following that is “Folding Chair” during which Regina, no joke, actually imitates a dolphin song (though I think it sounds more like the “orf, orf” of a seal than the chirping or clicking of a dolphin). Really, a dolphin. Make of that what you will.

“Machine” is probably the danciest track on an album that isn’t at all dancey. It was here that I went “Oh, that sounds like Tori”. Despite the fact that both songstresses play the piano and have intriguing and unique voices, the comparison hadn’t occurred to me before hearing this particular track. And it is, thankfully, the only one on the album that immediately lends itself to such comparison.

The second half of the album is where my attention starts to wander. I have a much harder time telling you what the songs really sound like except, well, more of the same. There are not a whole lot of tonal shifts within the album; there’s not much in the way of variety. With the exceptions of “Blue Lips” and “Machine”, the songs don’t vary much in either style or sound. It’s pleasant to listen to, but there’s not really much to catch my attention.

The production on this album is, however, really solid. It’s been polished to a high sheen for the most part, except for Regina’s voice. Not that she sounds rough — quite the opposite. It’s clear that she’s got a good voice and that, more importantly, she has excellent control of it. Her voice lilts and dips and soars alongside the piano in each song. It’s clear she knows what she’s doing, and that’s something I can appreciate. The album serves to show off her voice. The production doesn’t hide her singing, rather it emphasizes it.

I know that the words whimsy and quirk get thrown around an awful lot ‘round these parts, but in this case I’d say they’re a perfect fit. Regina is a whimsical singer, and this is a quirky little album (did I mention the dolphin song imitation?). It’s well put together and enjoyable, but it’s nothing that’s going to stay with me for years. Unfortunately, nothing about this album really encouraged me to dig deeper. I really think I’m damning the album with faint praise here, and I’m not sure that’s what I mean to do. I quite like it, I’m just not sure I really want to go out and get all of her other work after listening to it. I don’t think that this one is going to win Regina a new legion of fans, but I have a feeling it’s a solid enough work not to lose her any fans, either.

Lizzie Borden lives in Baltimore. She has an extensive axe collection. Read more about her here.

TK Burton is an Editorial Consultant. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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