Kiefer’s Music Mondays: Regina Spektor’s ‘Far’

The singer-songwriter’s ambitious and brilliant fifth album came out 10 years ago this week

After the grand commercial success of her fourth studio album, Begin to Hope, which waded heavily into commercial production with the inclusion of a complete rock band and many pop music elements, classically-trained, Soviet-born pianist Regina Spektor decided to take things as (well) far as she could with her 2009 follow-up, Far, which turns a decade old this very week.

In contrast to Begin to Hope‘s straight and narrow intentions, Spektor decided to play the industry game from the hip on this record and it came out wonderful.

Hoping to shake things up a bit, Spektor used four different producers on the album. In addition to keep to keep the sound fresh, the strategy helped make every song as strong as possible. With their different backgrounds, producers David Kahne (who had worked with Spektor previously), Jacknife Lee (who had an established career with U2, the Cars, R.E.M.), Jeff Lynne (the man behind Electric Light Orchestra and classic albums by Tom Petty, George Harrison and Roy Orbison), and Mike Elizondo (best known for his work with hip-hop artists like Dr. Dre and Eminem), came to round out the album in a very balanced way that also stretched to grasp its full potential.

Far also displays some of Regina Spektor’s most confident, ambitious and fully-realized songwriting. Singles like “Eet” and “Machine” showcase her brilliant tendency to work in alliteration, using phonetic rhyme schemes within words and phrases to create connectivity throughout the entire piece. Emotional tracks like “Genius Next Door” and “Blue Lips” begin in your mind and sink into your deepest memories with Spektor’s prose-like lines.

“Human of the Year” pulls at your heartstrings with its overwhelming beauty, while keeping you at arm’s length with its snarky satire. Her more playful songs, like “Dance Anthem of the 80’s” or “Wallet,” never lose their integrity, regardless of the content, and hold themselves accountable through her virtuosic piano playing and lyricism.

My personal favorite track, opener “The Calculation,” is what I consider a perfect Spektor style song: jovial expressions of tough, emotional day-to-day life, bordering on tongue-in-cheek, with her signature glottal stops and guttural vibrato intertwining alliteration and exaggerated rhyming as it bops along in whimsy.

Entering Billboard 200 at Number 3, the album was well received as a whole, and lauded for Spektor’s ambition and remarkable performance. Almost all reviews noted that the content of the album itself exemplifies a larger sense of artistic representation; something that eases my nerves to see commended.

After a decade in the industry, Regina Spektor went out on a limb and did something audacious on her fifth record. After what is now two decades in the business, this album still stands as evidence of exactly how “Far” she can go.

Listen to: “Eet,” “The Calculation,” “Laughing With”