Odder than Kate Bush, as dreamy as Stina Nordenstam and less scary than Tori Amos.
Michael Quinn 2009
Regina Spektor's moment may have come. Kooky and quirky with songs brimming over with catchy melodies and lyrics that revel in magnificently opulent fantasies on life, love and, well, pretty much anything and everything else, studio album number five from the Moscow-born doyenne of New York's anti-folk scene promises to catapult her squarely into the spotlight.
Odder than Kate Bush, as dreamy as Stina Nordenstam and less scary than Tori Amos, Spektor has gone for some very subtle but secure underpinning in Far, enlisting no less than four producers – ex-ELO frontman Jeff Lynne and Fiona Apple mentor Mike Elizondo among them – to perfectly frame a baker's dozen of tracks that take idiosyncrasy to delicious new heights of oddball inventiveness.
Spektor's determinedly semi-detached fascination with the minutiae of things may irritate some listeners – there's something about the curious biography outlined in the overly jaunty Folding Chair, with its imitation of dolphins singing, that provokes a concerned step backwards – but for the most part it throws up miniature marvels.
The easy but effective metaphor of Two Birds, the extrapolation of an unknown life spun from the contents of a found Wallet, the litany of calamities in lead single Laughing With, and the pretty but quietly disturbing One More Time With Feeling all exert a tangled fascination that keeps you in hushed thrall to their operatic intensity.
Piano led, indie-accented, with surprising instrumental details and vocal tics aplenty, Far showcases a singer-songwriter of considerable (if occasionally unfocused to the point of unhinged) ability. But behind Spektor's cutesy cartoon outlines lie songs full of adult drama and detail that catch the imagination when you're least expecting them to.