Regina Spektor has been dogged by the q-word—“quirky”—since she first started to attract national attention with the 2004 album Soviet Kitsch. It’s not like the tag doesn’t fit. In concert, Spektor’s been known to take drumsticks to her piano, and she fills her songs with imagery that’s one part Lou Reed New York grit to four parts Gabriel Garcia Marquez magical realism. On Far, Spektor’s latest, there’s even a song that devolves into dolphin noises. But it doesn’t take a high tolerance for preciousness to appreciate Spektor. Her piano-based melodies pop from the speakers and there’s heft behind even her most delicate imagery. And even if there weren’t, her voice—which alternates between a swoop and a whisper—could probably put them over anyway.
Far follows the 2006 album Begin To Hope, which kept Spektor’s edges intact while packaging them in a VH1-and-soundtrack-friendly album. Far continues that project, bringing in four producers, including Jeff Lynne, to flesh out the sound while still letting Spektor’s piano-and-personality-first approach dominate. The album finds Spektor trying to capture moments of human connection in a world that doesn’t always encourage it, whether it’s getting to know someone through a lost wallet (“Wallet”) observing a “meat market” club crowd (“Dance Anthem Of The ’80s”) or contemplating the big questions (the somber, elusive nature-of-God track “Laughing With”). A couple of tracks—“Machine” and “Human Of The Year”—never quite crawl out of the shadow of their high concepts, but Far otherwise cements Spektor as an artist comfortable with her own eccentricities, and beguiling in her ability to bring listeners into her strange, tempestuous, and often beautiful world.