Regina Spektor, 'Far' (Sire)

Critical Mass
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by David Bevan

Three years after her major-label splash Begin to Hope, New York pianist Regina Spektor went back into the studio with four (!) multiplatinum producers of varying pop backgrounds, including Dr. Dre/Eminem/Fiona Apple enabler Mike Elizondo and former McCartney/Harrison/Wilbury collaborator and ELO founder Jeff Lynne. Yet despite so many hands at the controls, the only prints and smudges to be found are Spektor's own. Far snuggles between her previous efforts, linking the heady sweep of 2003's Soviet Kitsch to the roundabout pop treats of Begin to Hope.

On lead-off track "The Calculation," Spektor purrs a scenario of love and hurt that plays out in the breakfast nook, her rubberband vocal tics flush with an almost Caribbean piano hook. In fact, the hiccups that drove songs such as her last album's hit single "Fidelity" sweeten the melodies even further here. "Eet" takes its title from the hilly phonetics of its near-yodeled chorus, while "Folding Chair" features Spektor singing as she dreamed dolphins might.

Her Joan Osborne–esque look at G-O-D on "Laughing With" is heartbreakingly sharp. But it's "Folding Chair," which refines Spektor's blend of classicist flourish and pure pop sense, that best encapsulates her talents and gnarly eccentricities. After opening with ivory wisps of the sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen," she quickly guns it back to the islands, unfurling a balmy new melody like a beach towel. Just in time for summer.

Watch: Regina Spektor, "Eet"

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