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Regina Spektor

  • Soviet Kitsch [Sire, 2005] **
  • Begin to Hope [Sire, 2006] ***
  • Far [Sire, 2009] A-
  • What We Saw From the Cheap Seats [Sire, 2012] B+
  • Remember Us to Life (Deluxe Edition) [Sire, 2016] A-
  • Home, Before and After [Sire, 2022] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Soviet Kitsch [Sire, 2005]
Once again, wise-ass New York art-pop (cf. Apple, McKay) outslugs subtle Toronto art-pop (e.g., Stars, Feist) ("Your Honor," "Ode to Divorce"). **

Begin to Hope [Sire, 2006]
A bigger heart than her piano-playing New York City counterparts but a slightly smaller talent, a problem that could prove chronic or lessen with time ("That Time," "Another Town"). ***

Far [Sire, 2009]
No kid but not yet 30, the very classically trained piano woman outgrows her musical and verbal eccentricities. The tunes are consistently fetching, and a few standouts have clever lyrics--"Laughing With," the sensible theist's answer to "One of Us," or "Wallet," in which a good-hearted young person reaches across the generational divide to a stranger who'll never know who did him a good turn. But that cleverness doesn't do justice to the even strength of Spektor's humanism, which often manages to be whimsical and levelheaded at the same time. Insofar as one can read autobiography into this carefully unsubjective stuff, she seems to have the usual commitment problems and also seems likely to overcome them. Eventually she's sure to find a bird who's ready to fly away just when she is. A-

What We Saw From the Cheap Seats [Sire, 2012]
Outside of country music (and I don't know who compares there), pop music is home to few friendlier artists than Regina Spektor. So well-meaning you want to kiss the tip of her nose, she uses her classical chops to craft tunes that will help any normal listener smile. But although a practical humanist is a rare thing, this one often needs more spice or even grit, and here her whimsy is front and center. I love "All the Rowboats," about a museum--"Masterpieces serving maximum sentences/It's their own fault/For being timeless"--and "Firewood," about a piano. "Ballad of a Politician" plays off "Shake it, shake it baby" (hands, get it?) and "Open" comes with a gurgling groan. But many of these songs are merely bemused, and when she revises "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good," all she achieves is a different singalong from the one you expected. B+

Remember Us to Life (Deluxe Edition) [Sire, 2016]
Let's speculate that marriage, motherhood, and turning 35--a big one that can sandbag you--are all on her melodically fertile mind. Let's assume it's been pretty sobering. Without being a sad sack, she was always serious. But her softer fans may be daunted by the steely class fable "The Trapper and the Furrier" and the fatalistic faux trifle "Sellers of Flowers," by quietly unrelenting five-minute bonus cuts in which an aged solitary celebrates New Year's and old friends compare their polar yet equally confining life paths--maybe even by her fond report that both her baby boy and his dad are better at dreaming than she is. So to help her dream more darkly, she enlists classically inclined producer Leo Abrahams, whose second piano is meant to ensure that "Obsolete" sticks around a while. A-

Home, Before and After [Sire, 2022]
"My mind is full of melodies/They search for homes inside of me," and although rhythm players are credited along with the strings and occasional fancy-pants brass that swell up quietly here and there, the dominant instrument on Spektor's first album since 2016 is her classically trained piano, which even so plays second fiddle to her sweet, modest, precise voice as crafted song follows crafted song and thoughtful lyric enriches thoughtful lyric. At 42 she's not getting any happier, her humanity touched with the kind of disquiet sure to make biographical fallacy fans nervous. So I guess I'm relieved to report that the finale brings her back to a home where the light is always on. And I also note that the standout "One Man's Prayer" sketches a guy who's timid till a gal shores up his confidence and what happens next is not pretty. I dare any male to cover it. A-

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