Few can argue that Regina Spektor’s third album, Soviet Kitsch, is one of the best of those released in the past decade. Vocally impressive, widely varied in theme, unique in composition, and quirky in nature this album throws you from absolutely beautiful (see: “Us”) to hysterical (see: “Ghost of Corporate Future”) to poignant (see: “Chemo Limo”) without giving you time to breathe.
Self-released at first, Kitsch caught the attention of Sire Records, and that change was blatantly obvious on 2006’s Begin To Hope. Although highly produced in sound, there are some wonderful gems on this record, including “Samson”, “Summer in the City”, and “On The Radio”.
When it became time for Spektor to record her fifth studio album, fans sat in wonder – would the creativity and quirk of Kitsch join forces with the beautiful melodies of Begin To Hope, or would over-production and pressure level off Spektor’s tracks into mediocrity.
After spending some time with Far, out June 23, I can tell you that the answer is…a little of both. Kitsch fans will be happy to find some of the vocal olympics and childlike playfulness common of Regina’s first three albums, while those who more enjoyed Hope will once again recognize some (overly)crisp, (overly)clean production. Unfortunately, the result seems to be a handful of songs that almost make it, leaving a lot to be desired.
Here’s what I mean. Opening track, “The Calculation” starts off with a great, rolling piano riff and some fun lyrical content in the verses – but then blasts into an awful poptastic chorus complete with “hey, hey” ‘s that makes the track unlistenable for me. “Blue Lips” is an interesting, slower track at the start with a clever chorus, and then enters a cheesy electric riff and too-loud drum beat that drown out what’s working in the song. “Folding Chair” could have been the album standout without the horrible sounding hand claps and bass line that once again overpower the strength of the track.
But the two tracks on the album that are the greatest examples of good songs ruined are “Laughing With” and “Dance Anthem of the 80’s”. The first is the track single, which will probably be the driving force for many behind this record. The lyrics are thoughtful, vocals playful, and melody soft to the ears. But the constant repetition during the chorus of “No one laughs at God…” has got to go. Does it ruin this track for anyone besides me?
The second, “Dance Anthem of the 80’s” should be the standout track of this album. The first half of this song is hands down the best minute and a half Far has to offer. It oozes with Soviet Kitsch style… until the faint sound of a man beat boxing and some douche bag saying “solo!” comes in, and that’s when it all goes to hell. Beat boxing and some spacey overlays kill the awesomeness out of this song, in a way that makes me seriously wonder where Regina was while they were mixing this thing.
The moral of the story is that I still think Regina Spektor is one of the most interesting composers and singers out there today. There are a few tracks on this album that I will revisit (see: “Two Birds” and “One More Time With Feeling”), but the majority I am going to have to chalk up to over-production.
[download]Regina Spektor – “Dance Anthem Of The 80’s”
1. The Calculation
3. Blue Lips
4. Folding Chair
6. Laughing With
7. Human of the Year
*8. Two Birds
9. Dance Anthem of the 80’s [SOT – first 1:30 only]
10. Genius Next Door
*12. One More Time With Feeling
13. Man Of A Thousand Faces
SOT = Standout Track