Regina Spektor’s latest album, Far, was released last summer. Now that I’ve listened to all the songs countless times and have fallen in love with all the music, I am ready to share my thoughts about it. My introduction to Spektor was through her previous album, Begin to Hope, which was so good that I was sure her follow-up album wouldn’t live up to its standard. I was wrong! Somehow, she managed to top herself, turning out another brilliant blend of quirky lyrics, beautiful piano, and her distinctive pure vocals. Sometimes I have no clue what her songs are about, but I love them anyway. Here’s a rundown of the songs that make up Far.
- “The Calculation” – This is one of the songs I can’t figure out. It seems to have something to do with a couple’s stagnant relationship, but I’m not sure. It starts off light-hearted enough, talking about kitchen cupboards and macaroni pieces, but then about halfway through these lyrics push violently through the cheery music: “So we made the hard decision / And we each made an incision / Past our muscles and our bones / Our hearts were little stones / Pulled ’em out they weren’t beating / And we weren’t even bleeding / As we lay them on our granite counter top…” Regardless what it’s about, this song is fun to listen to, and even more fun to sing along with.
- “Eet” – Initially, I wasn’t crazy about this song, but there is plenty to appreciate, and plenty of singing along to enjoy. Do I know what “eet” means? No. But it certainly makes for an interesting song.
- “Blue Lips” – Aerosmith sang the praises of pink, Coldplay serenaded yellow, and now Regina Spektor contemplates blue: “Blue lips, Blue veins. / Blue, / The color of our planet from far, far away.” This is one of my favorite songs on the album. It has powerful lyrics, powerul vocals, and a satisfying mix of melancholy piano and striking guitar chords. It is a song about the struggles of the human existence, or at least as far as I can tell.
- “Folding Chair” – Maybe you prefer the quirkier, less serious Regina. She certainly shows up in this song, which is pure fun, and instantly catchy (listen to it once and it will be stuck in your head all day). From the opening line (“Come and open up your folding chair next to me / My feet are buried in the sand, and there’s a breeze”), to the illogical explanation that “I’ve got a perfect body, ’cause my eyelashes catch my sweat,” to her bizarre imitation of the dolphin’s song through a series of “ooh ooh ooh oohs,” I couldn’t imagine anyone anyone else pulling off this song, or succeeding so marvelously.
- “Machine” – I can’t help but think of the Cylons on Battlestar Galactica when I listen to this song, which is about a humanoid machine. Just last night I watched the pilot episode of the BSG prequel, Caprica, which explores the origins of the Cylons. So, all the “machines that look and act like humans” stuff is fresh on my mind. A sampling of lyrics from “Machine”: “I collect my moments / Into a correspondence / With a mightier power / Who just lacks my perspective / And who lacks my organics / And who covets my defects / And I’m downloaded daily / I am part of a composite.” Does that sound Cylon-ish to anyone else?
- “Laughing With” – This is definitely my least favorite song on the album, so it’s ironic that it was the first single she released, and that it was the song she sang on all the talk shows. Reminiscent of Joan Osborne’s “What If God Was One of Us,” it runs through a list of various situations in which people don’t laugh at God, for example: “No one laughs at God in a hospital / No one laughs at God in a war / No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor…” The only shift in the music comes when the perspective changes to times when God is funny, like “at a cocktail party,” or when “presented like a genie…” – otherwise it’s a rather monotonous song. It’s still not a bad song; it’s just a bit of a downer.
- “Human of the Year” – I love this song. It’s my favorite on the album. It’s basically a song in praise of a regular guy, imagining what it would be like if he were recognized by the world for his simple contributions to society. It’s nice to imagination a world where the man in the cubicle gets honored instead of the man with all the money and power. My favorite part of the song is an explosion of music and choral singing: “Outside the cars are beeping out a song just in your honour. / And although they do not know it all mankind are now your brothers. / All mankind are now your brothers. / Hallelujah. / Hallelujah. / Hallelujah. / Hallelujah.” Listening to this song makes me feel happy to be alive. 🙂 Take a listen:
- “Two Birds” – This is a catchy song that deals with the theme of relationships that get stuck in one place because neither person is willing to make the first move, or one person is afraid to step out of his/her comfort zone. “Two birds on a wire / One says come on / And the other says / I’m tired.”
- “Dance Anthem of the 80’s” – This is a highly inventive and fun song, and it reminds me of Ben Folds’ “Songs of Love,” off his Supersunnyspeedgraphic album. Both songs take a whimsical look at the teen dating game. Spektor’s song starts off: “There’s a meat market down the street / The boys and the girls watch each other eat / You are so sweet, so sweet / Dancing and moving to that beat, that beat…” Folds’ song begins: “Pale, pubescent beasts / Roam through the streets / And coffee-shops / Their prey gather in herds / Of stiff knee-length skirts / And white ankle-socks…” One important difference between these two songs is the style: Spektor’s song creatively mimics the sounds of an ’80s techno song, while Folds’ sounds more like a waltz. Both are great, though, and very worthy of an iTunes purchase.
- “Genius Next Door” – This song has me scratching my head more than any of the others on this album, but that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of it. Whether it’s about an Erin Brockovich scenario where a town’s water supply was tainted by industry, or simply an unexplained phenomenon, it all centers around a murky lake: “Some said the local lake had been enchanted / Others said it must have been the weather / The neighbors were trying to keep it quiet / But I swear that I could hear the laughter / So they joke, and they nicknamed it “the porridge” / Cause over night that lake had turned as thick as butter…” The melody is haunting, and it’s an interesting song to puzzle over.
- “Wallet” – Next to “Folding Chair,” this is probably one of the more light-hearted songs on the album. It’s about someone finding a wallet and examining all the contents to figure out what sort of person it belongs to (before returning it to the local Blockbuster). It is very true that what’s in our wallets says a lot about who we are, so it’s a simple yet truthful song.
- “One More Time with Feeling” – When I see the song title and hear the phrase in the lyrics, I immediately think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s musical episode, “Once More, with Feeling.” Can’t help myself. However, I don’t know if Regina was channeling Buffy when she wrote this song, but it certainly seems like it: “…hold on / one more time with feeling / try it again, breathing’s just a rhythm / say it in your mind until you know that the words are right / this is why we fight. / you thought by now you’d be / so much better than you are / you thought by now they’d see / that you have come so far.” Hmmm… that does sound a lot like how Buffy felt after her friends brought her back to life and harsh reality, and she was going through the motions, trying to pretend that everything was okay.
- “Man of a Thousand Faces” – The album ends with this mysterious song about the man with a thousand faces who “Sits down at the table / Eats a small lump of sugar / And smiles at the moon like he knows her…” I couldn’t tell you what it’s all about, but it’s an intriguing end to an excellent album.
If you’ve never listened to Regina Spektor, do yourself a favor and check out some of her songs, soon and very soon! Granted, she’s not for everyone, but her music has many layers to discover, uncover, and decipher. Enjoy! I’ll leave you with the music video for “Eet.”