Review Summary: 32 is still a goddamn number.
The cover of Mary Ann Meets the Gravediggers and Other Short Stories
is vacant of a Spektor album staple: her face. There is no smug Regina (Soviet Kitsch
), innocent Regina (Begin to Hope
), wishful Regina (11:11
), or attentive Regina (Songs
). There is just that bitch, Mary Ann, and those pesky gravediggers, cloaked in harsh shades of grey, black, and a splash of red. This reluctance to place her face in the forefront of Gravediggers
gives it the air of indisposition; where is Regina if not planted firmly in the middle? So it’s with this foreboding sense of missing soul that the compilation of past Regina albums presents itself as a storybook, a simple, timeless story that grows and swirls into a poignant and touching tale. It may not be new, but it shows Regina at her most intricate.
It’s a bold statement, but Gravediggers
thrives and suspires because of its attention to detail, here found in placement; Soviet Kitsch
’s ‘Sailor Song’ rolls into ‘Mary Ann,’ called out for her bitchiness in the former and brought to life in the latter. It’s taking the antagonist and fleshing her out; in the poppy piano cynicism of ‘Sailor Song,’ Regina paints Mary Ann in wide, broad strokes. “Do not
date her! Do not
love her!” Regina seems to say of the prude flirt. “She will kiss until your lips bleed, but she will not take her dress off,” Regina does say of the prude flirt. But the underground chic of ‘Mary Ann’ (you can almost smell the coffee and hear the fingers snap as the upright bass shakes in the background) makes this girly villain a caricature of her own emotions.
And Regina is an aspiring master of wordplay, letting ‘Oedipus,’ an intricately woven track, bare and simplistic with its infrequent resonating pianos, break out from a history lesson into a metaphor (some say isolation, but it's ambiguous!), Regina varies in intensity like a storybook actor, making the blistering bang of notes in ‘Love Affair’ contrast her flowing, characteristic vocals. ‘Consequence of Sounds’ drives on its day-to-day feel, paved in realism by the R&B influenced rhyme scheme. Regina uses what she has for an optimum effect, her instruments always a necessity to get her point across (‘Poor Little Rich Boy’’s percussion instrument is a chair), but she is as much a character as the ones in the stories she’s weaving. When she stumbles over her words in the dreamlike piano of ‘Daniel Cowman,’ it’s more effective because of it. “And he was screaming and everybody was, like, ‘What're you screaming as if it's the end of the world?’ And he was, like, ‘Well it is.’”
The heart of Gravediggers
, like all the other Spektor albums, is its capitalization on Regina's imperfections; unpolished and left to float on their own self-concious production, songs like 'Prisoners' (you can hear Regina's lips part and smack) grow from their close to home feel. Much in the way 'Poor Little Rich Boy' sets it tempo to a piece of furniture, Gravediggers
sets its own heart and ear to Regina's innovations; she's not taking leaps and bounds around in her pop genre, but she's not by any means conventional. If her voice cracks, her voice cracks; she can very well become breathless, banging on the piano until it has caught up to where she wants it to, ala 'Chemo Limo' or 'Lacrimosa.'
ends on its best foot, letting the tilted piano and building violins of ‘Us’ spell out the eloquent “The End.
” The period on the fictional autobiography, a tainted, emotional story to tell; it’s not always eloquent, but there’s part of its charm. It’s Regina herself that says, “My brain and tongue just met, and they ain’t friends so far.” For her sake, let’s hope they keep their distance.