Monday, 29 June 2009

Regina Spektor - Far

Far by Regina Spektor is the follow up to Begin To Hope, an album that saw Regina take a more mainstream radio friendly direction to her quirky blend of vocal acrobatics and piano based pop. The new album is a further extension of this approach that sometimes creates moments of loveliness, but for the majority sacrifices Regina’s wide eyed magical wonder at the expense of middle of the road predictability; it therefore doesn’t quite live up to the expectations created by her previous work.

With four different producers on board, Far has ended up as a collection of mid tempo coffee table arrangements. It’s easy to imagine it being played as the background to a middle class thirty something dinner party, as the hosts try to create a statement of how they are still hip, happening and just a little bit leftfield. “Oh yes darling, this is the new album by Regina - haven’t you heard it yet ? She’s simply divine!” Tracks like Human Of The Year with its understated strings and “Hallelujah hallelujah,” chorus will sit very neatly with a bottle of Chardonnay and wood-roasted squid stuffed with chilli.

There are just a few songs on Far that force us out of the dinner party security net and next door to where artists are stripping naked, covering each other with glossy paint and chasing after rainbows. The charmingly alluring and twitchy Dance Anthem Of The 80’s where Regina sings about a tasteless disco (the meat market) where boys and girls go to cop off with each other over a skippy little beat and minimal synth sounds puts her firmly back in the quirky field. It’s sweetly odd and intriguing and draws you in, even if it is somewhat reminiscent of her earlier material. Elsewhere Eet is tenderly intimate. “You’re using your headphones to drown out your mind,” sings Regina over swooping grandiose chords.

These songs are in the minority though. For the majority of Far, from the opening pedestrian plodding piano of The Calculation to the gentle drifting closing cascade of Man Of A Thousand Faces the songs just don’t have the power to draw in the listener in the same way that her previous work has done.

Like a flameless middle aged relationship that has settled into a safe pattern of cosiness, Far is perfectly comfortable, but lacks burn and spark. There is not one particularly bad song on this album, but neither are there songs to become passionate about. This is an album that sees Regina shift even further towards the centre. There are plenty of pretty melodies and vocals, but sadly Far is a diluted version of what we have seen before.

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