Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Regina Spektor’s Far: A Review January 27, 2010

Filed under: Music — Emily @ 5:27 pm
Tags: , ,

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.”


Ipod Shuffle: What I’ve Been Listening To August 10, 2009

A few weeks ago, I wrote a series of posts about the music listening habits of my youth. I have long since graduated from dubbed cassette tapes to mp3s, but I never cease to be amazed by the still relatively new ability to have thousands of songs at my fingertips. I gravitate toward certain artists and albums when I am exercising or driving around town, but when I put my ipod on shuffle, I often come across classics that I’d forgotten about for awhile.

Here are a few of the songs that came up on my last cardio session at the gym:

  • “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty – I loved this song long before Tom Cruise belted it out on the highway in Jerry Maguire.
  • “100 Years” by Five for Fighting – Most of Five for Fighting’s songs sound the same, but I really love this one. It’s a little bit sad, but also a celebration of all of life’s phases.
  • “I Don’t Wanna Be” by Gavin DeGraw – So fun to sing along to!
  • “Until” by Sting – From the movie Kate and Leopold, this song showcases Sting’s smooth voice and features a lovely classical guitar.
  • “Trouble” by Ray LaMontagne – I am still getting to know this soulful, old school singer, but this is one of my favorite of his songs.
  • “Folding Chair” by Regina Spektor – I am in love with Regina’s latest album, Far, and this quirky, upbeat song is one of the catchiest ones on the album.

And now, I’ll do the Ipod shuffle and list out the next 10 songs that come up:

  • “I Will Buy You a New Life” by Everclear – Oh, what a fun ’90s song! For some reason this one doesn’t play very often.
  • “Hate Me” by Blue October – 😦   Such an intense song, but very good.
  • “Everything’s Not Lost” by Coldplay – A Coldplay song would have to come up in the rotation. I probably have more Coldplay, Ben Folds, and Dave Matthews Band songs than anything else. (The Dave Matthews songs are my husband’s – I got tired of them a long time ago.)
  • “Peace (A Communion Blessing from St. Joseph’s Square)” by Rich Mullins – A great little slice of Americana. This folksy, humanitarian artist died way before his time, about ten years ago, but he left behind some great music.
  • “We Might As Well Be Strangers” by Keane – Cool band, but I can’t listen to their stuff and be productive at the same time. Their style is just too mellow, and makes me want to curl up under a blanket on the sofa.
  • “Good” by Better Than Ezra – A fun song from my college days. “And it’s good, a-livin with you wa-haw.”
  • “Here in America” by Rich Mullins – Who knew that Rich Mullins would show up twice in ten songs? I only have about ten of his songs in itunes! I love that this song celebrating the landscapes and people of America features an accordion.
  • “To Make You Feel My Love” by Billy Joel – Great song, but a little more dramatic than my mood right now. Next.
  • “Hard to Handle” by the Black Crowes – Yay! More classic ’90s music. I had no idea what they were saying most of the time, but the music sure was fun.
  • “Yele” by Wyclef Jean – I prefer Wyclef’s Carnivale Vol II album, so I am not too familiar with this song from Carnivale. My husband introduced me to Wyclef, and I wasn’t impressed at first, but now Carnivale Vol. II is actually one of my favorite albums.

It’s probably clear from these lists that I lean more toward the lowkey end of the musical spectrum, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate some louder or heavier stuff when it’s worthy of admiration. What have you been listening to lately? Any recommendations of what I should be listening to?


Music Monday: The First Time I Met Regina Spektor June 29, 2009

Filed under: Music — Emily @ 3:59 pm
Tags: , ,

Well, technically it was the first time I met Regina Spektor’s music, since I’ve never actually met her in person, but I remember very well the day that I was watching VH1, and the video for her song “Fidelity” came on. “Fidelity,” and the album it comes from, Begin to Hope, are old news now, but this talented and unusual musician is still very fresh and successful. Her latest album, Far, was released last week, and once I’ve gotten to know it a little better, I’ll post my thoughts on it here. (So far I am loving it!)

“Fidelity” is one of my favorite Regina Spektor songs. It has an inviting opening, a contagious melody, and those oh so fun “oh oh oh ohs” that I love to sing along with. I don’t really “get” the video, but I suppose it has something to do with taking down your guard and experiencing life, and relationships, to the fullest. It’s cute and artistic, just like the performer. If you’ve never listened to much of Spektor’s music, do yourself a favor and sample Begin to Hope. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Her music is refreshing, inventive, and worth your time!


Music Monday: My Favorite Sing Along Artists June 22, 2009

I love music, and on some occasions, I love singing along with it. Maybe it’s because I’ve never done much karaoke, or maybe it’s because singing is one way I relieve stress, but there’s something refreshing and satisfying about belting out a tune while driving down the road, preparing a meal, or cleaning the house. There are certain artists whom I have a natural affinity for singing along with, so I thought I would list them here (not necessarily in chronological order).

  1. Bonnie Raitt – This red-headed blues/rock singer is probably my very favorite singalong artist. It’s easy to hit all the notes, since her vocal range doesn’t go too high or low, and her songs are just fun to sing! Some of my favorites include “Something to Talk About,” “You Got It,” “Love Sneaking Up on You,” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” (“Don’t worry baby, aint’ nothin’ new, that’s just love sneakin’ up on you” is a song phrase that often gets stuck in my head.)
  2. Regina Spektor – This quirky, anti-folk artist is another of my favorites to accompany in song. Again, her vocal range is reasonable, and her voice is so smooth that it’s easy to blend in with her. Some of my favorites include “Fidelity,” “Samson,” and “Apres Moi.” Her latest album, Far, will be released tomorrow. No doubt it contains more fun tunes to sing along to.
  3. Mariah Carey – When I say Mariah Carey, I am referring to the pre-Butterfly and Glitter Mariah. I loved her music in the early ’90s, but haven’t been a fan of hers over the last decade. I used to spend hours listening to the trio of Mariah albums that I owned (on cassette tape!): Mariah Carey, Emotions, and MTV Unplugged. I also had a few songs from her Merry Christmas album, which I copied from a friend, using my fancy dual cassette stereo. Oh, the lengths we had to go to for our favorite music before the days of mp3s and ipods… Anyway, Mariah’s songs are probably the most challenging of my singalong favorites, because of her ridiculous five-octave range. I can sometimes build up enough gusto to hit those high notes, but I doubt they sound pretty! My favorite Mariah songs include “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” “Emotions,” “I’ll Be There,” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
  4. Simon and Garfunkel – And so we move to the first of the male artists on this list. When I’m weary, feeling small, when tears are in my eyes… when I’m walking across a bridge over troubled water… that’s when I like to sing some mellow tunes from these Queens, NY boys. Actually, singing their songs puts me in a cheerful, nostalgic mood. I grew up listening to my parents’ Simon and Garfunkel records, and now I own three of their albums: Bridge Over Troubled Water, Concert in Central Park, and a greatest hits compilation. I absolutely love the folksy nature of many of their lyrics, as well as the simple, catchy melodies. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is a song that really brings out my inner diva, “Keep the Customer Satisfied” – which features a Chicago-style horn section – brings out my inner cheese (but it’s a great song!), and “Kodachrome/Maybellene” is just fun to sing because of its frantic pace.
  5. Sting – Oh, how I love Sting. And when I want to just chill out and sing along with some good, jazz-infused music, I turn on some Sting. Whether it’s the fast-paced “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” or the beautiful, pastoral “Fields of Gold,” Sting is easy to listen to or sing along with.
  6. Aimee Mann – Aimee Mann has one of the most ordinary voices of any artist I listen to, in terms of her vocal styling, yet the sound of her voice is very distinctive. Perhaps it is this ordinary quality that makes it so fun to sing along with her. Unlike with an intimidating Mariah Carey song, singing along to one of Mann’s songs is like doing a duet with a friend. Most of my knowledge of her music is courtesy of the excellent Magnolia soundtrack, on which my favorites singalong songs are “Save Me” and “One.” I especially love the opening sequence of “One”: “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do. Two can be as bad as one. It’s the loneliest number since the number one.”
  7. Ben Folds – Ben Folds is the male equivalent of Regina Spektor: quirky, sometimes irreverent, and super fun to sing along to. However, his ordinary vocal style is more akin to Aimee Mann than to Spektor’s strange, inventive stylings. I’m picking up on some patterns of what makes an artist fun for me to sing along with. Whatever it is about Ben Folds, some of my favorite songs of his include the fast-paced “Zak and Sara,” the strangely upbeat “You to Thank,” and  the fabulous “Trusted,” which is packed with interesting lyrics, my favorite section being: “The sun’s coming up / She’s pulled all the blankets over / Curled in a ball / Like she’s hiding from me and / That’s when I know / She’s gonna be pissed when she wakes up / For terrible things I did to her in her dreams.”
  8. The Backstreet Boys – In the late-90s boy band battle between N’Sync and Backstreet Boys, I landed, at least with one foot planted, on the side of the Backstreet Boys. The truth is, I was a bit of a closet fan, because in public I ridiculed the concept of a boy band, and thought it was ridiculous for grown men to prance around impressing pre-teen girls. However, when I heard “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” “The Call,” or “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” on the radio, I threw caution to the wind and switched into power ballad mode. Embarassing, I know, but it’s the truth! Who can forget these epic and technologically up to date lyrics from “The Call”: “Listen Baby I’m sorry, Just wanna tell you don’t worry, I will be late don’t stay up and wait for me. I’ll say again you’re dropping out my battery is low, so you know we’re goin to a place nearby. I gotta go.”
  9. Destiny’s Child – In the early 2000s I went through a pop/R&B phase that was mainly spurred by the contagious noise that was Destiny’s Child. The small town I grew up in didn’t play this kind of hip-hoppinin music, but the larger college town in Alabama I moved to did. And so I got in touch with my inner soul sistah, shouting out tunes like “Say My Name,” “Jumpin Jumpin,” and “Bootylicious” along with Beyonce (and those other two). My favorite opening line from a Destiny’s Child song, and one that still gets stuck in my head, is this one from “Jumpin’ Jumpin'”: “Ladies leave your man at home, the club is full of ballers and their pockets full grown. And all you fellas leave your girl with her friends, cause it’s eleven thirty and the club is jumpin’, jumpin’.”
  10. Kelly Clarkson – Like Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson has quite a set of lungs! And so, when I’m feeling particularly exhuberant, I enjoy singing along to such ambitious and loud tunes as “Miss Independent,” “Since U Been Gone,” and “Walk Away.” I wish her well with her latest album, All I Ever Wanted, and hope there are some more fun songs on it!

Related Link:

  • “Top Ten All Time Pop Singalong Songs”– I came across this fun list, and definitely enjoy singing a few of the songs that made the cut, including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Hey Jude,” and “I Love Rock n Roll.” What are your favorite songs or artists to sing along with?

I’ll leave you with a quintessential Backstreet Boys video for one of my favorite singalong songs, the overdramatic, sappy “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely”: