Regina Spektor
Home, Before and After


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sowing STAFF
June 21st, 2022 | 89 replies


Release Date: 06/24/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Up the mountain, but not without the occasional valley.

Regina Spektor possesses an undervalued trait that seems to be shared among some of the most resilient musical acts: the ability to consistently add new layers to a tried-and-true formula without having the foundation crumble. Refinement and reinvention are both essential components for artistic longevity, and Regina always seems to know precisely which direction to lean into and when. She launched her career on an anti-folk platform, with 2004’s Soviet Kitsch espousing her most abrasive and peculiar brand. However, by 2009’s Far, she had figuratively dulled the blade in favor of broadening her potential audience; yet, at its heart, Far was still spry and eclectic enough to separate her from most singer-songwriters in the scene. 2012’s What We Saw from the Cheap Seats and 2016’s Remember Us To Life saw her marry her witty eccentricities to more elegant, classically-influenced stylings. As Spektor continually molds her craft while toeing the line between comforting familiarity and sonic expansion, listeners have spent the better part of two decades marveling at her raw talent and her ability to sound fresh at every turn.

Following the longest gap between albums of her career, Regina Spektor’s eighth full-length release – Home, Before and After – once again sees her subtly reshaping her art. This time, the music is decidedly more serious, erring away from idiosyncratic indie-pop and steering into more dramatic arrangements. We witness it on the record’s lead single, ‘Becoming All Alone Again’, as it soars to a massive orchestral arrangement while Spektor implores God – over a round of beers, of course – to do something about the world’s endless cycle of suffering: “I just want to ride / but this whole world, it makes me carsick / Stop the meter, sir – you have a heart, why don't you use it?” Spektor is rarely so forthright with her concerns – instead typically hiding them behind a layer of irony or a humorous quip – but on ‘Becoming All Alone Again’, the mood is both somber and urgent, as if her pleas are a last-ditch chance for humanity. Most of Home, Before and After is similarly dark but also just as theatrical: ‘Coin’ depicts a desperate search for the meaning of life to a surging rhythm section, ‘Up the Mountain’ is mysterious in its prose (a downright trippy exploration into the depths of nature) but is otherwise a propulsive and unpredictable pop tune, and ‘One Man’s Prayer’ is narrated through soaring choruses from the perspective of a man who gradually demands more sinister levels of submission from his partner until he’s asking for complete and utter supremacy (“I just want some girl beneath my feet / To tell me I’m her king / And then beg me for a ring / And I want her to be afraid of me / And think that I might leave her”). Spektor has never been shy about tackling uncomfortable subject matter, but here the music intentionally swerves into that seriousness with elegant and well-orchestrated poignancy rather than the quirky, animated piano ballads that we’ve become accustomed to. Nowhere is this better illustrated than on ‘Spacetime Fairytale’, which may very well be the most purely epic thing that Regina has ever put on record. At a sprawling nine minutes, it’s her longest track to-date – and every second of it is overflowing with rich, symphonic beauty. Harps and flutes give way to burgeoning strings and majestic brass during this lush odyssey, as it navigates space and time while slowly transforming from something of a child’s lullaby (“the fairy tale’s begun / so listen up my son”) to a bone-chilling omen (“pages burn but words return…you will learn”). It feels like the crux of Home, Before and After – this massive, swirling epicenter that pulls together all of the Regina’s best traits.

This might lead you to believe that Home, Before and After is Spektor’s unquestioned magnum opus, but there are a few things holding it back from ascending to her discography’s gold-plated throne. The first noticeable issue is atmospheric and tonal inconsistency. While Regina is known and loved for her expansive artistic palette, the aesthetics on display here don’t always mesh in an agreeable way. ‘What Might’ve Been’ comes to mind immediately, with a fun/lighthearted demeanor that might have been a natural fit on her other works but ends up sounding at-odds with the other material here. The song is noticeably out of place on what is easily her most serious endeavor yet, and because it lacks any real emotional/lyrical weight compared to the majority of the album, it ultimately becomes expendable. It’s also difficult to see ‘Raindrops’ – which samples the chorus from B.J. Thomas’ 1969 single ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’ – really striking a chord with anyone outside of the most rabid Spektor superfans who’ve been keeping tabs on her rarities and other incomplete works (Regina’s reimagining of the song dates back to 2008). The second and perhaps more pressing roadblock to perfection is that some of these songs (especially outside of the singles) simply fail to leave a lasting impression. Even the penultimate ‘Lovelogy’ (another classic Regina tune that’s been given a fresh coat of studio wax) lacks a strong enough hook to justify its mythical status within her discography’s lore. The closer, ‘Through a Door’, is also one of her weaker curtain calls. While it admittedly falls much more in line with the record’s pervading aura, it ends things with an apathetic shrug – there is no climax, overarching lyrical resolution, or other crystallizing juncture to truly solidify it as a concluding or unifying moment; it merely waxes poetic about “what makes a home” and then peters out. On a rather slender ten song tracklist, these weak links begin to add up quickly.

Regardless, Home, Before and After is still a strong addition to Spektor’s discography. It successfully adds another wrinkle to her sound with the addition of sweeping string sections, majestic brass horns, and epic flourishes. It also can’t be overstated just how brilliant this album’s pinnacles are, with ‘Becoming All Alone Again’, ‘Up the Mountain’, and ‘Spacetime Fairytale’ standing out as particularly dazzling career highlights. Even ‘SugarMan’ deserves an honorable mention as one of the most lush and mesmerizing songs that Regina has ever crafted – a dreamy oasis in the album’s midsection that is downright transportive. It’s easy to wonder what might have been had these pinnacles been surrounded by a better supporting cast, but that doesn’t rob Home, Before and After of what it does possess in spades: individual moments of well-orchestrated brilliance that will undoubtedly find themselves on a future Greatest Hits compilation.



s
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user ratings (59)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
RadioSuicide
June 21st 2022


2141 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

had no idea this was coming out. elite songwriter through and through, stoked to check

Sinternet
June 21st 2022


25177 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"Even the penultimate ‘Lovelogy’ (another classic Regina tune that’s been given a fresh coat of studio wax) lacks a strong enough hook to justify its mythical status within her discography’s lore."



what, its like top 5 songs she's ever written

Divaman
June 21st 2022


15846 Comments


I'm looking forward to hearing this one.

Digging: Chaos Magic - Emerge

Cormano
June 21st 2022


3610 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this is aoty please delete this review

Cormano
June 21st 2022


3610 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Even the penultimate ‘Lovelogy’ (another classic Regina tune that’s been given a fresh coat of studio wax) lacks a strong enough hook to justify its mythical status within her discography’s lore."



srry but you certainly are alone on this

NorwichScene
June 21st 2022


3211 Comments


This comes out Fri? How is review up already? I’ll have a listen for sure

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2022


17428 Comments


I liked the singles but can’t say I’ve invested any real time in this

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2022


49280 Comments


because it's not out, or?
tentatively excited for this, will read after hearing

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2022


17428 Comments


Nothing so much to do with the release cycle. I feel (judging by Sow's review) that this would be better absorbed as a piece, rather than single fragments. I'll revisit Friday. I was simply skimming new release singles looking for bites that day.

Sowing
Moderator
June 21st 2022


41785 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This has outstanding individual moments, arguably career highlights, but I felt that it didn't come together quite the way I wanted it to as an album. That's actually been a common theme for me as it relates to my enjoyment of her material; she's so adventurous that I think she occasionally loses her ear for which songs belong and which ones don't. This is an excellent record overall, but Raindrops, What Might’ve Been, Loveology, and Through a Door are all mid tier Regina -- and that 40% drags down the mind blowing and nearly perfect 60% that comprises the rest. I think she was so close to creating a career topper here that the willingness to include some plainer/typical piano ballads sort of let me down. All that said, she's still one of the most talented songwriters I've heard and this is still easily on par with most of her other highly rated / acclaimed pieces, so if you're a Spektor Stan you've got nothing to worry about here.

Digging: Panda Bear and Sonic Boom - Reset

Colton
June 21st 2022


16136 Comments


what Regina album should I listen to for my first

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 21st 2022


16140 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh damn, I forgot this was coming out!



Nice review, definitely excited to pick this one up. Regina rarely - if ever - disappoints

Sinternet
June 21st 2022


25177 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"what Regina album should I listen to for my first"



soviet kitsch is her best and probably the best entry point. from there if you like the more straightforward piano balladry move onto begin to hope, far and what we saw, if you like the quirkier moments skip ahead to remember us to life, then feel free to check her first two which are also amazing but perhaps best approached from a perspective looking backwards



"Loveology mid-tier Regina"



you are on crack my wigga

Cormano
June 22nd 2022


3610 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Colton just listen to Mary Ann Meets the Gravediggers





lol this guy keeps undermining Loveology

Flugmorph
June 22nd 2022


27456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

new regina spektor letsgooooooo?!?!?!?!?

Digging: Mori Calliope - Shinigami Note

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
June 22nd 2022


23466 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Colton check Soviet Kitsch or Remember Us to Life

RadioSuicide
June 22nd 2022


2141 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Songs would be my favorite of hers, but Soviet Kitsch is the Regina album

Sowing
Moderator
June 22nd 2022


41785 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Glad people are hyped for this. The album is excellent and won't let you down.



I agree with everyone else that Soviet Kitsch is likely the best introduction, if for no other reason because it contains "Us" which is her best track and the song that got me into her 13 years ago.

cold
June 23rd 2022


6424 Comments


why the fuck ain't this on spotify yet

EDIT: ahhh, the good ol' mistake the review post date with the release date

Digging: World of Pleasure - World Of Pleasure and Friends

Atari
Staff Reviewer
June 23rd 2022


27450 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review! it's been too long since we had a new Regina album



re: Loveology you are wrong but I also can't help but adore a song that has the word Porcupineology in it, haha ;)

Digging: Ben Quad - I'm Scared That's All There Is



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