Originally best known for her association with the then so-hip-they’ll-inevitably-fall-flat-on-their-faces The Strokes, Regina Spektor managed to forge her own path with her singular brand of indie-rock. Soviet Kitsch had gone a long way to establish that there was a lot more to her then being flavour of the month and 2006’s Begin to Hope and it’s trio of singles gave an indication that there was a substantial commercial career in front of her if she chose to seize it.
The first thing I heard about her next album, Far, was that one man Electric Light Orchestra, Jeff Lynne, was going to have a hand in producing it. My heart sank. The thing is, back in the 70s, Lynne produced some outstandingly great music, but since the mid-80s he shifted his efforts towards producing others, and I am simply not a fan of the production methods he used on albums by immense talents like Tom Petty, George Harrison and Roy Orbison. Quite why Spektor would choose him as a producer was balling, and I hoped that he would not scupper what would be a vital album for her.
It turns out I need not have worried, as the material Lynne produced for Far is no worse than any of the rest of it. As it turned out Far was one of those albums that utilised the talents of several producers, and while it inevitably resulted in an album that was a little more piecemeal instead of being a unified statement, it did a good job of consolidating Spektor’s commercial appeal, without losing any of her indie-rock credibility.
Perhaps slightly more piano-based than her previous albums, Far is by turns playful, heart-warming and emotionally honest. Her songwriting had evolved to a point where she was more than capable of penning compelling, yet off-beat, material (“Wallet” is a particularly lovely stand-out number) and on “Laughing With”, she quite rightly points out that, for all its flaws, religion can give some people hope and strength in the darkest of moments. In retrospect, if nothing else, Far is the album where Spektor reached her maturity as a songwriter.
That does not mean that Far is not flawless by any means. Too many songs flit by without making much of an impact, and the multiple producer approach hinders rather than helps. It would be nice to think that if one producer had over-seen it, they would have been able to guide Spektor towards a more focused and economical album. Perhaps that’s missing the point though, as Far is a solid album which found Regina Spektor at a crucial point in her career, and one on which she makes confident strides forward in her artistry. It would have been easy for Spektor to have been overwhelmed by the fact that she was at this a crossroads in her career, but she kept the faith in what made her such a great performer and avoided falling flat on her face in the same way that so many of her contemporaries had by then.