Review Summary: The simple fact behind Regina Spektor's music is that she can do no wrong.
The only bad thing about Far is that it took too long to make. Three years? Come on.
Especially considering the fact that she's been playing some of these songs live for a few years now. "Blue Lips" was my favorite Regina song even before I knew it was going to be on this album. Regina, it's okay, but please don't do it again.
Nevertheless, Far is worth the wait, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a Spektor fan who won't love it. Yes, even the ones who hated Begin To Hope because their favorite "anti-folk" hero stopped banging on chairs and was suddenly certified gold and getting played on VH1. ("You've only heard 'Fidelity'? Oh my god
you've got to hear 'Pavlov's Daughter,' it's so much better!") Here's the bottom line: Far is her second best album, and it is so close to being as good as (or better than) Soviet Kitsch that it's almost scary. The easiest way to describe this album is simply to say that it's basically a combination of all the things that made her past work so good. Do you miss that quirky crap she used to do on 11:11 and Songs? Well, you should listen to "Dance Anthem Of The 80s," complete with her trademark staccato piano-and-voice combination. And, like some of the tracks on 11:11 and Songs, it's got just the right combination of sweet sections ("Been a long time since I was touched, now I'm getting touched all the time") and parts that are actually slightly annoying, like the aforementioned staccato, but as before, things like that only serve to make her listeners love her more. She is arguably the most endearing performer around right now; those who love her, love her dearly.
Of course, the smooth pop of Soviet Kitsch and especially Begin To Hope is still here too. Bouncy opener "The Calculation" is bound to get your head bobbing, and despite its aesthetic similarities to "Fidelity," she'll still put a smile on your face with her lyrics ("We made our own computer out of macaroni pieces") and steal your heart with a totally unexpected chorus that shifts the song into overdrive. "Eet" starts off similarly to a song like "Carbon Monoxide" - it sounds like it's going to be a slow, moody ballad but when the second verse hits, the drums come in and things pick up. One of the best things about Regina Spektor is that while her music is fairly straightforward, there are so many ingenious subtleties that set her apart from the rest of the pack. Her fans have her on such a high pedestal for a reason.
And then, after all that, there are things previously unheard of as well. "Machine" is almost Gothic in its approach, industrial noises clanking away in the background while a driving drumbeat accentuates Regina's minor-key piano arpeggios. She's played some dark songs before, but they've never been as overbearing and ominous as "Machine" is. And while Regina has never been much of a singer to belt things out like Christina Aguilera, "Human Of The Year" sees her coming close with a jaw-dropping second half, where subtle horns and a choir build up behind her, almost imperceptibly, until it becomes one of Far's greatest moments.
The album's crowning achievement is the closer, "Man Of A Thousand Faces." A withdrawn, smoky ballad, the song seems always on the cusp of breaking loose into some climax, but it never does; Regina Spektor has finally mastered restraint. In fact, come to think of it, Regina has basically mastered everything else too; it's hard to see her making a wrong move anytime soon. And, listening to Far, it's hard to see why anyone ever doubted her in the first place. As for her next album...well, let's just say I hope it isn't Far, because I can't wait for it.