Regina Spektor "Remember Us to Life"

Regina Spektor has never fit an easy definition of pop diva. Like Kate Bush or Tori Amos, she’s followed a muse that leads her down roads less traveled. At times it seems she’d taken flight, to Neverland or some other haunted or mystical realm. Despite her ear for melody, precise piano playing, and lovely voice, her music contains idiosyncratic tics that her fans adore but often kept her from gaining mainstream appeal. This was most obvious on her earliest work as the young Soviet transplant began exploring her musical identity. With each passing album Spektor’s vision became clearer and less quirky without losing its unique perspective.

Remember Us to Life is a stunningly beautiful and mature work that overflows with delightful melodies, mercurial arrangements, and dazzling imagery. Its themes run from whimsical cinematic tales of youth, to contemplative examinations of aging and mortality. Spektor has always written about the passage of time and its impact on the choices we make but now it seems to be more stressed. “Enjoy your youth, sounds like a threat” she sings on “Older and Taller,” a perky mid-tempo ballad about fleeting youth. “Grand Hotel,” another lively tune that trips across a field of piano, releases mysterious demons from their fiery depths to masquerade among humans. “Small Bills,” a cautionary tale of criminal intent, zig-zags across shifting melodies, and rap-inflected vocals. Spektor’s lyrics are often oblique. She prefers to leave their interpretation open to the listener. Her language is so descriptive that a visceral reaction is often the result. This is particularly true on the menacing morality march “The Trapper And the Furrier.”  She uses a variety of string arrangements from solo cello, to quartets, to full orchestra.  Their strain captures the subconscious elements in the songs.

Spektor’s finest moments come on her introspective ballads. “Obsolete” captures the essence of loneliness in echoing piano, hollowing timpani, and shimmering cymbal. “The Visit” is a sweet nod to the simple pleasure of offering company to another. “Sellers of Flowers” recounts a childhood memory, holding it up as proof that time is fleeting and every moment is precious. Each of these is highlighted by Spektor’s remarkable clear voice and expert phrasing. Time spent with this album is time well spent. 

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)

 

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