Aw there's bricks in the window she's so lonely!

Aw there's bricks in the window she's so lonely!

Listening to “The Calculation,” the first track off of Regina Spektor’s new album Far, you can understand where all the criticisms about her being too produced are coming from. Her usually ecstatic voice, which ranges all across the sounds the human voice is capable of, is mostly locked into the standard pop-piano female singer range, and is all about building a computer to make your decisions about love. It sounds like you might be listening to Adult Alternative. But this is Regina Spektor, and so even in this mode you’re getting good things, like the little detail about the computer being made from macaroni. Even at her most mainstream you feel like you’re listening to the musical version of a Michael Gondry movie.

And as the album continues you move back into what has become the Spektor corner of quirkiness. “Eet,” the second track, is reminiscent of “Us” and “Carbon Monoxide” from her earlier Soviet Kitsch and which seems to be about the many things that rhyme with ‘Eet’. The fourth track, “Folding Chairs,” features that dolphin singing all the reviews are talking about and but by that point you already know that you’re listening to Spektor. And really, limiting the song to just the dolphin noises ignores the fact that it’s another pitch perfect examination of a relationship that isn’t the usual glossy Gossip Girl ultra-reality versions you hear about on the radio. The people Spektor summons are messy and weird because, honestly, who wants to be normal?

The songwriting on this album actually reminds me of Andrew Bird or Beirut – several of the songs have a certain trajectory until about two-thirds of the way through when it undergoes a major course correction: the rapturous sign from God on “Human of the Year,” the drunken descent of “Dance Anthem of the 80’s,” even “The Calculation” has a vocal breakdown near the end. It’s in these switches that Spektor’s ability to summon emotion out of every piano chord really shines through. The album does come with some let downs. “Machine,” is incomprehensible as a purposeful creation, and a few tracks like “Genius Next Door” and “One More Time with Feeling” suffer by being merely alright amongst the better compositions. This is especially true of the two bonus tracks that come with the extended version, which are only must-haves for those obsessed with having all of Spektor’s discography.

So, another successful album for Spektor, one that is immensely enjoyable and not the abandonment of principles that some have been claiming when looking at that four producer credit. If you’re up for a talented lady singing about finding someone else’s wallet over some beautiful piano, then grab Far. And even if you don’t think you’re that kind of person, pick it up anyway. I’m sure it will please no matter what, and have you singing along with dolphin clicks.

Picks: Eet, Laughing With, Dance Anthem of the 80s, Folding Chair