Review Summary: ...and I have walked these streets so long; there ain't nothin' right, there ain't nothin' wrong.
Some of my favorite moments from when I lived in California were the ones in which I could just take a drive in my Honda and just relax
. I was going to a community college that was 40 minutes away, so naturally there was a lot of commuting back and forth. And if you’re like me (a music nut), you’ll listen to a lot of albums over time when driving. But when I picked up Regina Spektor’s Begin to Hope
, a new dimension was brought to my listening experiences from then on. Each drive became more about reflection and contemplation than pure relaxation, and Regina Spektor brought a more personal and thought-provoking touch (even through the relatively simple lyrics) that I wasn’t used to at the time. The firm-yet-tasteful touch on the keys, that quirky voice, and intricate lyrical vignettes that were both dramatic and humorous… this was foreign to my palette.
Yet I continued to listen.
I even started covering her songs on the piano. The joyrides in the car would start becoming new poetry at home. Begin to Hope
is breathtaking in how its jovial bounciness and hard-hitting realities would collide in the speakers, though it begins with some subtle balladry in the form of “Fedility”’s light baroque pop stylings. But it’s when piano-centric classics like “Samson” and especially “Field Below” come into the picture that everything starts being pieced together. Regina’s piano phrasing is beautiful, and her chord choices and ear for dynamics lead to hard evidence of her classical training her upbringing provided. This is definitely indie pop, merging the cerebral with the accessible. A little playfulness is still accounted for, like the peppy rhythm of “Hotel Song” and the optimistic melodies of pop-rocker “Better,” but it’s always met with some harsh dose of harsh reality to provide a beautiful contrast to the listener. Similar to Regina’s other work, the cold-vs-warm juxtaposition is intensely effective and provides a wild variance of moods. But what really sold Begin to Hope
to me for years was the potent atmosphere it gave me for those long rides, and how Regina’s little stories gave so much entertainment and inspiration in equal measure. And when she showcases her talents in more stately and commanding terms, such as the classically-drenched melancholic ballad “Apres Moi” or the fluffy and cascading piano runs of “20 Years of Snow,” these moments seem even more effective.
Now, this review may not sway any of you out there. In fact, you’ve probably already pointed out what your favorite Regina Spektor album is, and it might not even be this one. But this review isn’t about that. If anything, it’s a thank you letter to Regina Spektor. Thank you, Regina, for showing me the beauty and majesty of the world a singer-songwriter can inhabit, while also showing me its dark contrast. Thank you for being inspiration through your merging of classical piano with anti-folk indie-pop quirkiness. Thank you for combining a pop accessibility with defiant experimentation that’s punkish in spirit. Thank you for turning small tremors of everyday realities into mountains of meaning through your romanticized lens. Thank you for your mix of familiarity and subtle stylistic variations.
Thank you for dragging me into an entirely new realm of music.