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Get to know Regina Spektor's music

Review: "Far"

Review: "Far"

June 29, 2009|By COLLEEN SEIDEL / Special to The Herald-Mail

With the arguable exception of Beyoncé, mega-famous female pop stars these days are known for everything but their music. Which is what makes Regina Spektor all the more refreshing.

She's not mega-famous, unless you count the indie-pop scene, which a large part of the country doesn't. You won't find her on the cover of US Weekly or any tabloids. And unless you're a regular reader of SPIN magazine, you wouldn't recognize the red-haired piano virtuoso if you bumped into her on a crowded city street.

That's OK, because it's her music that's worth knowing. And with the release of her new album, "Far," now is the perfect time to introduce yourself to the accessible eccentricities of Spektor's sound.

"Far" is the follow-up to her 2006 collection of songs "Begin to Hope," a disc that caused major buzz in left-of-center music circles. Set apart by its quirky mix of light and dark, classical influences and nonlinear pop melodies, Spektor's music is a veritable rainbow sherbet for the ears.

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And "Far" is the natural progression of this talented musician's repertoire, showcasing better production values and a more refined sense of her signature vocal acrobatics.

Some tracks hark back to "Begin to Hope" more than others, like the mechanical song "Machine," which juxtaposes her ethereal voice against heavy major chords. "Dance Anthem of the '80s" presents the staccato points and idiosyncrasies with which Spektor loves to experiment, and in this case the experiment works. The song is just plain catchy, if a little odd.

"Eet" showcases her fascination with phonetic sounds, and "Wallet" features her unbridled talent as a pianist and natural skill in utilizing the piano as the main force of a song.

Lyrically, Spektor's right on target with her poetic style that evokes deep musings in simple phrasing. "Laughing With," the first single from the album, is quietly powerful in the way it poses human connections with God. "No one laughs at God when a doctor calls after some routine tests / no one's laughing at God when it's gotten real late and their kid's not back from the party yet," she croons but then provokes, "but God could be funny / when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini."

Another track, "Blue Lips," beautifully paints a visual picture of the color blue as a brushstroke of the human experience, tinged with sadness. "Blue lips, blue veins / blue, the color of the planet from far, far away," Spektor repeats several times then declares blue to be "the most human color." In all cases, it's not just what she sings but the way she sings it that makes the lyrics stand out.

If you want to stay on trend with the hipsters of the current music scene, listen to Spektor's "Far." After this album, she may not remain an unrecognizable female pop musician for long.

Thankfully, she'll be known for the caliber of her music not the scandalous nature of her behavior.

To hear her new album "Far" in its entirety for free, visit National Public Radio's Web site, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105518205 .

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