6.0

Regina Spektor: What We Saw From the Cheap Seats

Music  |  Reviews
Text
Regina Spektor: <i>What We Saw From the Cheap Seats</i>

Regina Spektor songs typically either leave you weeping in the fetal position or running for the door. The Russian-born NYC singer-songwriter just has that effect on people: She’s a skilled pianist with an undeniably beautiful voice, which soars through grand melodic patterns with the ease of an opera singer; her songs are heartfelt and colorful, filled with offbeat and affecting metaphors and quirky sonic detours. At her worst, she’s also pretentious and borderline excruciating, reveling in a particularly over-cute brand of seasick whimsy—one that treats every cracked vocal hiccup and silly accent like a theatrical debut.

Her sixth studio album, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, is all of those things at once. A good example is “Oh Marcello,” a dizzying, soulful wash of electric piano, beatboxing and borrowed lyrics (Nina Simone’s “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”) that’s either some sort of masterpiece or a complete and total disaster. Far easier to love is “Don’t Leave Me,” a peppy pop gem laced with bold horns and a crisp, fluid rhythm section.

Unfortunately, What We Saw is heavy on overlong ballads, and when she adds that trademark whimsy to the mix, it’s nearly unbearable: The dark “Ballad of a Politician” is musically rich, but hearing Spektor sing “Shake it, shake it, baby; shake your ass out on that street” with a straight face is just plain awkward, regardless of thematic context. Meanwhile, the funeral march “The Party” makes two-and-a-half minutes feel like a century, and when she obnoxiously cracks, “You taste like birthday,” it would be a low-point if not for the ill-fated mouth-trumpet solo that shortly follows. Rarely is such legitimate talent obscured, or simply wasted.

Sign up for the Paste newsletter Get our daily summary of the day's top articles and new items. Sign Up Thank you! Your email address has been added to our list. You will begin receiving our newsletter within 48 hours.

Paste Magazine example 1 Paste Magazine example 2 Paste Magazine example 3