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Regina Specktor 

Far (Sire)

Russian piano-pounder Regina Spektor continues to dig her own path and finds, on Far, the middle ground between the twitchy Soviet Kitsch and 2006's pop crossover Begin to Hope. The irony generation's Tori Amos has a better sense of humour than her colleague---Tori might commune with the earth, but she would never imitate dolphins, as Spektor does on "Folding Chair"---but has similar piano chops and a voice that can turn from elegiac to whimsical in the course of a single verse (hear: "Human of the Year"). Spektor is one of our keenest composers, turning tiny situations---finding the titular object on "Wallet," a local lake in "Genius Next Door"---into wry, insightful observations of the human condition. Far's best songs are its second and second-last: "Eet" (the sound made from dragging out "beat") is an electro-tinged ballad that explodes into a soaring bridge before ending with Spektor beat-boxing lightly; "One More Time with Feeling" begins mournfully in a hospital and ends a rallying cry: "Say it in your mind until you know that the words are right/This is why we fight." Sonically guided by a team super-producers including Mike Elizondo and Jeff Lynne, Far finds the warm side of slick, finally shucking the non-existent "anti-folk" label Spektor never deserved. This is some of the catchiest, most heartfelt and best pop music being made now.

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