Editors' pick

Regina Spektor

Rock
'

Editorial Review

If 2006's "Begin to Hope" distanced Spektor from the anti-folk scene that nurtured her early career, this out-and-out pop follow-up makes a persuasive case, with smarts, chops and grace, for how ill-fitting that tag was to begin with. Working with a series of notable producers, including Mike Elizondo and former ELO (link) frontman Jeff Lynne, the Russian-born singer-songwriter gets a little something different from each, while nevertheless managing to stitch her album's 13 tracks into a seamless, piano-centric whole.

She waxes theological at several points, refreshingly asserting, to the gorgeous strings of "Laughing With," that God has a sense of humor. Several lines later she wryly dismisses portrayals of the divine as Santa Claus. In "Blue Lips" she admits, "We stumbled into faith and followed," while to the dissonant chords of "Two Birds" she insists, "I'll believe it all / There's nothing I won't understand."

Such metaphysical considerations notwithstanding, the album's main concern is with what it means to be human, as witnessed by the baroque-pop likes of "Blue Lips," "Human of the Year" and "Machine," a meditation on finitude and free will.

"Far," however, is hardly all big concepts and no fun. There might be fewer rock guitar flourishes and -- sigh -- no glottal stops here, but the music is as ebullient and percussive as it was on Spektor's previous record, with plenty of rising and falling piano runs and playful vocalizations. There's as much musical whimsy and enchantment, in fact, as there is lyrical heft, a combination befitting an ascendant pop heavyweight.

-- Bill Friskics-Warren (June 2009)