Regina Spektor combines a whimsical, Björk-like sensibility with singing chops and genuine compassion, and she's usually able to effectively combine the silly and the sweet. While her previous album, Begin to Hope, featured some jaunty numbers and plenty of nonsensical musings, this year's Far feels more serious. Sure, this is an album that contains a line about constructing a computer out of macaroni pieces, but sturdy production and easy, memorable piano melodies manage to ground nearly all of the songs. Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne helms two standout tracks, "Blue Lips" and "Wallet," both slow-burning works that peak as satisfactorily as many ELO songs. First single "Laughing With" is another highlight, if only because producer Jacknife Lee (known for his work with Bloc Party) had the good sense to almost completely pull back and let Spektor's haunting vocals carry the track. The song also highlights what's wrong with the album, though, as too often Spektor's quirky musings don't quite feel ready for prime time, such as "God can be funny at a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke," from "Laughing With." Still, her mesmerizing voice and Far's charming arrangements nonetheless make an evening in her company worth the price of admission.
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