Wednesday, June 14, 2006

pop of the moment: regina spektor

i've said a few things here before about Regina Spektor, but since her new album, Begin to Hope, is released today, & her promo co. was kind enough to send me a "Side 1" prerelease cd, i thought i'd offer some thoughts on these tracks in particular...

my favorite video i've seen for the new stuff thus far is the origami-animation-piano-reflection stylings of "Samson"...the version on this album is different from the one i've heard before (where the earlier version came from, i have no idea), a little faster, but still exquisitely beautiful. admittedly the video is a little too classic-artsy for my taste but i love the animation style. the song itself reminds me vaguely of Leonard Cohen, somehow, although comparisons to Tori Amos are more immediate & inevitable, but if Regina Spektor is reminiscent of Tori, it's a stripped-down, Under the Pink era comparison.

there's also a video for "Better", which was the first single of sorts from this album, & which, i have to admit, i don't enjoy very much. it's not the song itself--when i saw her live she performed a (piano-only) version that i thoroughly enjoyed & thought was beautiful--but the production on the album buries the song under layers of guitar & harmonies & all things signature for too many chick-pop anthems. twitch.
this is a phenomenon, though, that i've noticed all across the board: artists with bare-bones performance styles & unplugged-esque tunes on the whole, when faced with a studio & whatever goes on in there, emerge with uber-layered multi-instrumental barrages of sound that bear little resemblance to the song as performed live. i don't get it. if you play an acoustic guitar, why go electric & add drum treks on the record? admittedly having access to layers & other instrumentation is probably a windfall for a lot of musicians..."ooh look what we can do here"...but it has to be done skillfully & tastefully or the whole original sense of the music is lost.

one song though that i think the production really works on, though, is "Apres Moi", which not only raids the artist's classical training along with her Russian heritage, but also builds up into a passionate kind of crescendo where the various instruments...& there are a number of them...kind of coalesce into something that's quirky, a little sarcastic, & very much in keeping with her style as a whole...it's a progression, rather than a piling-up, & it's definitely memorable.

also very worthwhile & irresistibly catchy are "Fidelity", which is a lovely song that i think i've recommended before, & "On the Radio", my current favorite. you have to love a song with such a serene approach to life that still manages to communicate a very adorable, biting-your-lip kind of anxiety, & has a refrain devoted to listening to "November Rain." yeah.

"Field Below" is a very melancholy, sonata-feeling track, & one of those songs that highlight her similarities to Tori Amos &/or Fiona Apple. thankfully the solo-piano style is preserved in this track, but it's overshadowed, i think, by most of the other songs on the album, although i really dig the jazzy-music-box feel to it.
i really want to like "Hotel Song"...& i suspect it's going to be the next thing from this album that i listen to all the time...but something about it is relentless poppy-80s that contains the kernels of dozens & dozens of other songs. & i do mean dozens. which is not necessarily a bad thing, in the end, but i think it's going to take a little effort or time to get past.
"20 Feet of Snow" has that music-box feel to it again, which i'm very fond of, but the song is all over the place, very chaotic, & that's before the drum tracks cut it. i'm going to have to think about this one.
"That Time" reminds me (stylistically) of nothing so much as Regina's previous collaboration with the Strokes, "Modern Girls & Old-Fashioned Men".
i really like "Summer in the City", though, it's got a movie-soundtrack vibe to it, & after all, it's summer in this city, which is more or less her city too.
which is nice.


i hope all the links work, i don't have the time really to double-check them...

happy listening, fishies.

9 little fish:

Blogger anne swam up to say...

Music photographer, music reviewer... there's just no stopping you!

1:06 PM  
Blogger anne swam up to say...

oh, and the links for Fidelity and Modern Girls... don't seem to work with me...

1:09 PM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

you can hear some songs on her myspace page if the links don't work...no time, must bonnaroo...

www.myspace.com/reginaspektor

2:05 PM  
Blogger TwistedNoggin swam up to say...

I'm in a rush, so I haven't actually read your full post, yet. But, I had to comment on the "following my fish" pic. It's cute.

As much as I tend to love Vertigo comics, I haven't read Sandman yet. The guy who owns the local shop ordered them for me, though. I need to go pick them up.

Did you read Transmetropolitan? It's my favorite.

2:01 PM  
Blogger IanBradley swam up to say...

Holy sweet jesus on a freakin stick! If you haven't taken a look at Twistednoggin's blog "Another Day in Sheol", then do it. Do it now. My gut hurts. I haven't laughed like that in ages, and I'm schizo! I laugh at all kinds of things! After you read the top one go down and do the rest. Or do it in order like normal people do. I had to stop, I couldn't take it. But I'm going back tomorrow for more.

3:07 AM  
Blogger Carl V. swam up to say...

I actually really like the Better song and video...though I prefer her hair length the way it is on the album vs. the video.

I completely know what you mean about performers like Regina and the live vs. produced sound. When I saw Tori Amos for the first time I hadn't listened to much of her music and it was the From the Choirgirl Hotel tour and she had a full band with her and I just loved it. I then got all her other stuff and loved the less produced music as well. I had friends however who hated the show and preferred her solo piano shows, etc.

I'm that way with some of Sarah McLachlan's music. Most of what I've heard of her older stuff is from the live Mirrorball CD so when I hear the songs on the radio they just don't sound right to me and I prefer the live stuff better.

I appreciate you introducing me to Regina awhile back and look forward to checking out her new album.

11:31 AM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

there's a video out now for "on the radio" which makes me love what was already a favorite even more.

too cute.

the windows media version is here...let me know if it doesn't work or anyone wants the quicktime version...

2:10 PM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

TN: Transmetropolitan is a classic...& i am super highly amused by your Death blog...

2:53 PM  
Blogger banzai cat swam up to say...

Oooh, so that's how she looks.

I recently downloaded a number of Regina Spektor's songs from 'net after hearing a lot of recommendations about her. Pretty interesting listening experience.

At first I thought comparisons to Tori Amos abound but then I thought that Spektor was more... enthusiastic, and passionate. In other words, she sounds chipper singing her songs. (Amos always struck me as having a certain kind of darkness whatever kind of song she sung.)

4:20 AM  

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