Album Review: Regina Spektor - 'What We Saw from the Cheap Seats'
Regina Spektor has always been a great storyteller.
But unlike Tom Waits, whose stories are depictions of worlds unknown and Cherry Ghost's Simon Aldred who is the T.S. Eliot of lyric writing (in my opinion), Spektor tells ordinary stories in extraordinary (and sometimes tall) ways.
On her sixth album What We Saw from the Cheap Seats that tradition continues.
First single All the Rowboats doesn't sound as morbid as its video, but the lyrics are beautifully disturbing and are among Spektor's best. She tells stories of how paintings hanging in museums and instruments kept in glass cages must feel.
"First there's lights out/ then there's lock up/ masterpieces serving maximum sentences/ it's their own fault/ for being timeless," she sings in her gorgeous voice.
Its lyrical rival is Open, where her voice is at its most beautiful: "I wait for you still/ wires round my fingers/ potentially lovely/ perpetually human/ suspended and open.../ I am through those woods and past the trains/ I wait here in vain/ scrubbing out the stains again".
Its emotional intensity tugs at the heart strings in the fashion of Lady and Field Below.
Ballad of a Politician is also a standout track, with the lyrics: "You love so deep , so tender/ Your people and your land/ You love 'em till they can't recall/ who they are again."
The chorus, which might sound silly on paper, somehow folds perfectly into the track: "Shake it, shake it baby/ shake your ass out in that street/ you're gonna make them scream someday/ you're gonna make it big."
Because politicians, like prostitutes and strippers, make their money from pleasing the people.
Ballad How is Spektor's 'old lady' song.
It's something my mother would like. And despite my best attempts not to, I like it too. Even though the lyrics could have been written by any heartbroken balladeer from the 80s ("How can I forget your love/ how can I never see you again/... how can I begin again/ how can I try to love someone new/ someone who isn't you").
Some other tracks to look out for are Firewood, Small Town Moon (makes me think of Joni Mitchell) and The Party (which compares a lover to a party: lots of fun but a mess to clean up).
Spektor's always had fun with accents, usually singing in an exaggerated New York accent (with a touch of Jersey in there, too). On Oh Marcello she sings in an Italian accent and it's so cute. The song itself, however, isn't anything to write home about.
What We Saw from the Cheap Seats is a "good enough" album, but Ms Spektor will need to do something extraordinary with the next record to avoid becoming redundant. At least Cheap Seats is better than her 2009 album Far.
Lyrically, however, she's on another level. She's become such a master of her craft. It's beautiful.