Review Summary: A fourth album of love, heartbreak, and cigarettes.
Russian native, Regina Spektor was born with music in her blood, her father, an amateur violinist; and her mother, a college professor at a music school. It should come as no surprise that when the littlest Spektor was born in 1980, she had a talent to be explored. Be learned piano young, while at the same time being exposed to rock n’ roll including bands like, Queen and The Beatles. Sadly, when Spektor was nine her family chose to leave Russia and travel elsewhere, this move though forced a young Regina to leave her prized upright piano behind. However, when the family moved to Manhattan when Spektor was seventeen, she found a new piano and picked up her talent where she left off. Regina had found her niche.
Since 1999 Spektor has been writing and recording music releasing albums like, 11:11
, and Soviet Kitsch
, all of which were very well done and talented explorations of her singing and piano playing. Spektor reached her prime though in 2006 with Begin to Hope
, her fourth studio release. Begin to Hope
stands as one of the best examples of what piano playing sing-songwriters should be like, with this album Spektor reached her peak, and she is still not falling.
The album begins with one of Spektor’s most well known songs, “Fidelity,” a simple and quirky little pop tune with building verses, and a hook-fueled chorus. The song stands more as a representation of her incredibly beautiful vocal talent rather than the piano playing, as the keyboarding working is simple and sparsely changes throughout the song. The lyrics, “I never love nobody fully/Always one foot on the ground /And by protecting my heart truly/I got lost/In the sounds/I hear in my mind,” are sung with such a cleansing crispness, it is difficult to sit through the entire song without singing along. The piano and vocals make a swap in the next song, “Better,” which is essentially part two of “Fidelity.” This second track explodes with a deathly combo of guitar and piano, the guitar of which provided by Nick Valensi of The Strokes fame. Using that same hook of the previous song, “Better” takes what “Fidelity” brought and adds a instrumental surgery to it, giving a more rock flair rather than piano plus vocals throughout the whole album.
Not yet faltering, thirds song, “Samson” begins. The first true ballad the album about love and love lost. The songs bitter sweet lyrics of, “You are my sweetest downfall/I loved you first,” match the tone of the piano and fluxing of Spektor’s voice, making one of the most emotion songs of the album, and perhaps the best of the album altogether. Yet again using the pairing of two songs, “Samson” is followed by “On the Radio,” the generally happy side of the same story that “Samson” told. The entire song just slowly builds to a climax of Spektor’s loud elegant voice balanced out by the always-sweet piano work. If this album tells you anything, it is that Regina knows what she is doing, she is no child in the music industry anymore, and she could very rightfully be the queen of piano tunes in the twenty-first century.
From the heavy bass and percussion, “Hotel Song” to the dark piano driven “Apres Moi” Regina Spektor just constantly builds from the last song, each one featuring their own little spark. Every song on Begin to Hope
has its own life, its own heart to it that makes the album come alive. Twelve song, each one just as enjoyable as the last, being able to reach that is a true sign of success. Particularly the rock-flavored tunes like “That Time” showing the obvious influence of her childhood exposure to the likes of Queen and The Beatles. The quick moving guitar and sassy vocals about smoking cigarettes, Regina can make any subject she sings about catchy and beautiful.