I have to admit that I am not one of the people who jumped on the bandwagon for Regina Spektor’s last album, the 2006 breakthrough Begin to Hope. I’ve still never heard most of it, and what I did hear didn’t knock me out. Now Spektor is back with a new album, far (Sire Records), and I’m still on the fence.
I recognize her talent. I appreciate the exquisite wordplay with which she builds her songs. I’m aware of the fact that repeated listening to the album can reveal some previously hidden treasures. It’s all very accessible, musically accomplished, and lyrically interesting. What it’s missing, at least for me, is an emotional connection. Maybe this music is just not for me.
It’s a good idea to be wary of any album that has multiple producers, in the same way that it’s advisable to carefully approach films with more than one director. This album has four producers, each of them notable in his own right. Mike Elizondo has worked with Dr. Dre and Eminem, and he has produced four of this album’s 13 tracks. His work appeals as the most forward looking of the distinguished quartet. Check out his production on the inventive and imaginative “Machine.”
Jeff Lynne is one of the music world’s most well-known producers. He’s worked with Tom Petty, George Harrison, and the Traveling Wilburys, and of course he was the main man in the Electric Light Orchestra. Lynne also produced four tracks. The highlight of his work here is “Wallet,” a song in which a small discovery opens up an entire universe. The other producers are Garrett “Jacknife” Lee, who has worked with R.E.M., and Weezer, and David Kahne, who in addition to producing Paul McCartney and the Strokes, also produced Spektor’s Begin to Love.
So Spektor is clearly playing in the big leagues. What makes the album interesting is that despite having four producers with very distinct styles, the whole thing holds together remarkably well. Credit for that has to go to Spektor, who is obviously no shrinking violet when it comes to adding her input. Clearly she is an artist who knows what she wants for her music, and knows how to get it.
If you were to tell me that you love this album, you would get no argument from me. As I said earlier, given the quality of the songs, the performance, and the production, it’s clearly a matter of personal taste. Where the pristine clarity and precise imagery of it leaves me a little cold, it might engender the opposite reaction in you. So there’s only one solution I can recommend – listen for yourself and decide. I look forward to your comments.