Los Angeles punk crew hit a sweet spot between hedonism and poignancy on a multi-layered second album
Album review: Regina Spektor - 'Far'
The surprisingly influential songwriter breaks out from ‘niceness’ – but only just
Regina Spektor, though, has been an unacknowledged big sis influence on the sound of many young female artists. You can hear her early work in Florence’s jazzy bellow, in Peggy Sue’s raw-hearted confessions and in Kate Nash’s vocal quirks and proud femininity.
But with her signing to Sire for 2006’s US Top 20 ‘Begin To Hope’ and its overdone production, it seemed Regina’s energies were waning. A swift comparison between the biblical love song ‘Samson’ on second album ‘Songs’ and the reworked version on ‘Begin…’ did not suggest an artist travelling in the right direction. ‘Far’ goes some distance to halt a slide into mere radio-friendly pleasantness, though.
The slightly skanking jaunt of opener ‘The Calculation’ may sound just... nice, but ‘Blue Lips’ and ‘Machine’ soon flash a brittler edge, with tense classical piano and sturm-und-drang Russian emotions a-flutter. ‘Laughing With’ flirts a little with the mawkish – you can’t help but feel “No-one laughs at God in a hospital… but God can be funny at a cocktail party” is the modern-day equivalent of Joan Osborne’s ‘One Of Us’ – but it’s saved by a strong melody. ‘Two Birds’ takes cutesy a step too far and the ‘dolphin’ impersonation on ‘Folding Chair’ is like an irritating toddler, but there’s always a darkness lurking under her affectations, putting her closer to classic singer-songwriters like Laura Nyro, Dory Previn or Joni Mitchell than the anti-folk brigade.
When it breaks into flight, ‘Far’ reaches as high as its title suggests: ‘Human Of The Year’ pairs a typically Spektorian conceit with a lush mid-section on which Spektor’s remarkable, gutsy voice vaults to the rafters of heartbreak. It’s ‘Dance Anthem Of The 80s’, with its sick-naïve look at lust and alienation “in the meat market down the street” and stark vignette ‘Wallet’, though, that really break out the strange energies of old.
Nice to have you back, sis. Can I borrow your new jumper?
Click here to get your copy of Regina Spektor's 'Far' from the Rough Trade shop
Free music - Far
10 Tracks You Need To Hear This Week (2/9/2015)
Former Disney star enlists The Flaming Lips and Ariel Pink on a thrillingly weird surprise album
Abel Tesfaye's dark, twisted album is at odds with the glossy pop world he's been thrust into
The Cavan teenagers attack album two with abandon, largely at the expense of quality