Regina Spektor is one of my personal all-time favourite vocalists. Her sixth album, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, showcases everything that is great about the musician and reminded me why I dig her so much.
Spektor is one of the greatest story-tellers in music today. Each song tells a tale; some of seemingly imagined scenarios, while others come across more as reflections of her own experiences. But all are so descriptive and unique that listening to one is like tearing a page from a picture book.
Certain of Spektor’s tracks from previous albums have taken this feature a bit far for mainstream audiences. She has an absolutely stellar voice, and is a great, classically trained pianist who isn’t afraid to explore avenues of her own creation both lyrically and musically. At times however, this trait has tended to make some of her more artistic songs unappealing to the masses.
On What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, the only song to cross the edge from beautifully expressive adventures to awkwardly artistic is the ninth track, called Open. The song itself is just as good as the others on the album for the first two-thirds, but becomes a bit overly dramatic with huge, unappealing gasps for breath incorporated into the last of the lyrics. As a fan of Spektor and all things quirky, I appreciate what she’s doing. It’s an uncomfortable sound, expressing an uncomfortable feeling, but unfortunately it makes the song uncomfortable to listen to.
All other tracks on the album are perfect just the way they are. They balance the uniqueness that comes from Spektor’s mind with beautifully performed piano-based melodies. Top honours go to How, which is the best translation of the end of a relationship into song that I’ve ever heard, and All the Rowboats, which shows off Spektor’s fantastic voice as well as her intrinsic poetic ability at its best. (Interesting side note: All the Rowboats is a song Spektor actually wrote and performed a number of years ago, but only just officially released on this album.)
The best part about Spektor is she writes about whatever she wants. Though some of her eccentricities have been toned down a bit on this album, her songs all still transport listeners to a world of her creation, which is sometimes cutesy and other times dark, but almost always fantastic.