Review Summary: One hell of an indulgence
I’ve always found it fascinating the way your mind can so vividly match up a familiar sound with a particular time or place, especially in the case of music. Whether you’re revisiting an old favorite or expanding into uncharted territory, any individual song has the ability to conjure up potent mental imagery with little to no effort – it’s just the way the brain is wired. For me personally, Regina Spektor’s seventh full length will be a constant reminder of the surging power of the ocean, as well as its inescapable beauty and mystique. During my vacation to the Oregon Coast (the very beach that parts of The Goonies were filmed) I had a lot of time to reflect as I gazed upon the waves and massive rock formations. There’s nothing quite as therapeutic as watching the tides roll in and out, and throughout the beauty of it all, Regina's new album hung firmly in my mind. What kind of imagery it will carry for each individual is anyone’s guess, but it’s hard not to feel a profound mental connection with such a colorful and playful record.
I don’t know how she does it, but Regina Spektor manages to blow expectations away to some degree with each album she constructs. Whether it be her more abrasive and off-kilter approach on the fan-favorite Soviet Kitsch
or the more upbeat, pop-oriented What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
, each album she’s a part of is left with a quirky imprint that is very much her own. We already know what to expect going into her music: witty lyricism matched with wacky and soaring pop melodies; yet she always manages to impress anyhow with a few surprising tweaks and curveballs. Following a four year absence, Remember Us to Life makes one thing very apparent: Regina Spektor hasn’t lost her charm in the slightest. It is, quite possibly, the most versatile and complete album in her already impressive catalogue.
Remember Us To Life
is a compelling mixture of everything Regina has done so well in the past, but with some new layers of experimentation hidden within the sleek production. There are delicate piano sections that are so restrained and poignant they even bring to mind the likes of Chopin – most notably in the album highlight, ‘Obsolete.’ It’s a lofty comparison, but Regina’s exposure to classical music at a very young age reveals itself in full force here, with the most seductive and fragile piano melodies she’s written to date. This far into her career, and somehow the song feels almost entirely detached from anything she’s ever done; its highly minimalistic approach shows us a much softer side of Regina, a welcome treat for fans who thought they had the musician all figured out. She’s always been a talented songwriter, but the fragile instrumental touches at hand on Remember Us To Life
surpass even her most convincing compositions to date.
One of Regina’s strongest selling points aside from her quirky and instantly recognizable vocals has always been her lyrics – and Remember Us To Life
does not disappoint in this regard. ‘Grand Hotel’ and ‘The Trapper and the Furrier’ are both clever and sarcastic examples of her storytelling abilities, with lyrics that would be a perfect match for Soviet Kitsch’s more unconventional approach: What a strange, strange world we live in / where the good are damned and the wicked forgiven. What a strange, strange world we live in / those who don’t have lose, those who got get given more more more mooooooore.
It’s far from the first time Regina’s taken a stab at society through satirical songwriting, but it’s refreshing that she’s still doing it with such an unbeatable conviction. On the other hand, the light and breezy melodies on ‘Black and White’ and ‘The Light’ are given a much more natural lyrical-touch up, and would feel right at home alongside the gorgeous melodies on Far.
The list goes on and on. No matter which Regina album is your personal favorite, Remember Us to Life
has a little something for everyone – not just lyrically, but rather the entire package. With top-notch production and more variety than her past efforts, her seventh studio effort leaves no stone unturned.
Remember Us To Life
is a vibrant continuation of everything Regina Spektor’s done so well up to this point, and it’s hard not to get swept away in its powerful current. However, it’s the gentle experimentation that propels her latest effort to the next level. ‘Tornadoland’ will go down as one of the most innovative and unique songs of her career, with warm harmonies and Regina’s always impressive lyrics sandwiched between an adjoining of abrasive and gentle melodies. Other tracks are much more subtle in their greatness; ‘Sellers of Flowers' sounds like vintage Regina Spektor towards its first half, but soon gives way to carefully textured pianos and mischievous orchestration. The string sections here are a warmly enticing highlight, like on ‘Older and Taller’ which finds the precise instrumentation slyly mimicking Regina’s pleasant delivery. And how can one escape the appeal of the funky, hip-hop-inspired beats and rhymes of the flirtatious ‘Small Bill$'? Despite widening the playing field a bit, Remember Us To Life
is simply Regina doing what she does best. She’s always had a knack for writing both flashy and tender pop melodies, but on her latest album she knocks each number clear out of the park. It’s a delightful smorgasbord of all things Regina, complete with the richest selection of music she’s ever offered up on a single album. The various styles and flavors at hand here make for one hell of an indulgence. And dammit, I don’t remember the last time it felt this good to indulge.