If you want to get technical, the "Laughing With" EP centers on a pair of songs from Regina Spektor's fifth album "Far," with a bonus little live song. But the real highlight of this little jewel-like EP is actually a song that she did for the "Prince Caspian" soundtrack, which is absolutely brilliant and very lovely.
It kicks off with the somber piano and rambling singing of the title track, which just floats along like a strong summer breeze ("No one laughs at God in a hospital/No one laughs at God in a war/No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor"). Things get lighter in "Folding Chair," a sprightly little piano tune that just merrily bounces along.
And there's "Noise," a song from "Live at Bull Moose" which has a little bit of "live" tinniness but sounds lovely despite that -- her instrumentation is pristine and her voice sounds great.
But the best is undoubtedly the "Prince Caspian" song, which played during the final scenes of the movie -- it's a delicate little violin-led song that veers between bittersweet ("All you can do is try to know who your friends are/As you head off to the war") and hopeful ("You'll come back/When they call you/No need to say goodbye").
For the record: all the songs on this EP have been released on some other disc, whether it's the "Bull Moose" EP, the "Prince Caspian" soundtrack, or the full-length "Far" album. So if you've already got it all, don't bother with this.
But for those who HAVEN'T already got it all, it's a little gem. Three of the songs are cloaked in clear, striking piano melodies that can bounce, trot or flow like a dark river over your ears. "The Call" has some very different instrumentation, though -- it's an airy veil of strings and melancholy violin solos, with some piano woven into it.
And Spektor's offbeat voice proves that it can work with just about any kind of song -- it can soar gently, it can creak gently with a quirky edge, and ironically she sounds clearest and sweetest in the live song. And her songs are brilliant as always -- reflections on God and life, daydreams on the beach, and departures from Narnia ("Pick a star on the dark horizon/And follow the light/You'll come back when it's over/No need to say goodbye").
The "Laughing With" EP doesn't have a shred of new material, but it's still a lovely little EP with a brilliant quartet of songs.