While there are plenty of artists out there who claim that their sound is unique (when they generally just sound like everyone else and act like ‘special snowflakes’), finding someone who that statement rings true for is a much more arduous task. Finding someone like Regina Spektor is even harder, particularly in mainstream music. Yes, her piano-playing female singer-songwriter sell is far from original, but her lyrical storytelling and experimental, sometimes percussive vocal (more so in her early career) definitely set her away from fellow genre counterparts. Her just-released seventh album Remember Us To Life could be her most eclectic release to date; something those who’ve paid attention to the mix of preceding singles called weeks ago. The sickly-sweet, overly-repetitious Bleeding Heart (whose dreamy instrumental could soundtrack a Disney film), R&B-tinged wild card Small Bill$ and bittersweet, piano-led cut Older And Taller really haven’t given too much away as to what this album will be like as a whole.
Having practically phased out her mythological-themed lyrics (see Samson, Oedipus, Lacrimosa, etc.), more musical features tend to stand out in tracks from Spektor’s newer albums. Remember Us To Life is no exception, and it’s predictably the more out-there cuts that fare best. The Trapper And The Furrier is a good example, which sees Regina tell a dark story of capitalism. It’s a loaded and theatrical number, with the juxtaposition of Spektor pounding the piano keys at the lower end, belting out lyrics and a soft, pretty chorus a genius move in terms of composition. There’s an air of a Victorian street musician desperately trying to warn passers-by of society’s unseen dangers, and while it can be unsettling to listen to, it’s definitely a highlight of the record. Tornadoland is also worth mentioning – it may not be as out there as The Trapper And The Furrier, but by adding more sharps into its piano line than most others would dare to, wind effects to its gradually loudening instrumental passages (hence the song’s title) and a minute-long freestyle outro, it’s still fresh and quirky enough without running the risk of alienating too many.
All this being said, a lot of Remember Us To Life is made up of more simplistic piano tracks. Their success is quite hit and miss, which does make the album seem a bit disjointed at times. Ballads Black And White, The Light and closer The Visit are pleasant and pretty but don’t make the impact jauntier, beefed up inclusions Older And Taller and Grand Hotel do, with the latter a perfect example of Spektor’s knack for gorgeous storytelling and imagery. The stark Obsolete does this too, exploring hopelessness and depression in a stunning way. It’s novel to see Regina addressing something so real that isn’t the fantasy world she’s usually so engrossed in lyrically, and shows what a change-up this album is for her career. Her trademark rhyming couplets and kitschy delivery are mainstays, of course, but experimentation is rife here, with the record’s overshadowing moments hopefully telling of the future. If there’s one sure thing for though, it’s that Regina Spektor is definitely still in that league of her own.
For fans of: Kate Nash, Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘Remember Us To Life’ by Regina Spektor is out now on Sire Records.