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Cirque Du Soleil
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Patricia Barber
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Cirque Du Soleil
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Jim Pearce
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Amos Lee
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Julius Curcio
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Alligator Shoes
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"Come Alive"
Changing Into Me
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Rising Stars [Issue #23]
Regina Spektor: Finding Quirky Hope
By Lynne Bronstein
Begin to Hope (CD Sire)

The word critics love to use for Regina Spektor’s music is “quirky.” That’s the easiest way to describe songs with lyrics like “Hey remember that time I found a human tooth down on Delancey” and “Summer in the city means cleavage, cleavage, cleavage.”


These are two sample lyrics from Spektor’s new album on Sire Records, Begin To Hope. They’re typical of the album’s songs, which explore a world of urban angst, drugs, unusual relationships, and possibly dark, destructive behavior – a world that nevertheless seems somehow fun because Regina Spektor uses honesty, humor, and the incisive perspective of an outsider to tell her musical tales.

“You don’t even know the true lineage of your songs,” she says. “Maybe I’m becoming less of a narrator and more of a character these days. I was always used to observing and writing third person narrative stories . . . as time went on I started placing myself in these scenes, more like an actor.”

Regina Spektor seems to be a character in songs like “Hotel Song” in which she may be someone’s drugged-out mistress staying in a hotel and realizing that, “You will never be my fool.” Or in the dreamy love ballad ‘Samson” in which she describes a lover whom she tries to control even though he is her “sweetest downfall.” Sometimes she’s a New York punk (the previously quoted “That Time” with its litany of bizarre memories): “Hey remember that month when I only ate tangerines . . . Hey remember that time when I would only read Shakespeare.”

And sometimes she simply waxes philosophical as on “Apres Moi,” a Kurt Weil-flavored number that incorporates not only a French title, but also a few phrases in her native Russian. In English, it is a song about overcoming fear: “I must go on standing / you can’t break that which isn’t yours.”

On “Lady,” Spektor sings about her idol and influence, Billie Holiday, stepping outside her real or dramatic persona to sing of her love for Holliday and to mourn her also, as saxophonist Ralph U. Williams adds some atmosphere.

“Lady sings the blues so well
As if she mean it
As if it’s hell down here in this smoke filled world
Where the jokes are cold
They don’t laugh at jokes
They laugh at tragedies.”

The sound of Begin To Hope varies from simple and graceful piano settings to songs that really rock (Nick Valensi of the “Maybe I’m becoming less of a narrator and more of a character these days. I was always used to observing and writing third person narrative stories.”

Strokes contributed the rock guitar playing on “Better,” a Riot

Grrl-ish love song). Spektor herself plays not only piano, but also drums and guitar, “sort of.” This album is considered her “major label debut,” as her previous efforts, 2003’s Soviet Kitsch and the earlier 11:11 and Songs were all DIY albums. Spektor had the opportunity to record Begin To Hope in a real studio with producer David Kahne, who has worked with the likes of Paul McCartney. For he first time, she had the chance to take more time - two months - which for her is a long time.

“Before I even started, I knew I was going to experiment with things I’ve only thought about, like beats and drums,” she says. “I really wanted to play with electronic instruments and bigger arrangements. Still on this record there are some songs where it’s really sparse.”
But for those fans who hang on to Regina Spektor’s every sung note, she will undoubtedly be the same - well - quirky person whom they got to know as a young Russian-born, New York “anti-folk” performer in small clubs, who describes herself on her MySpace page as follows: “Sounds like a young human trying to make some music.”

Begin to Hope

Finding Quirky Hope Regina Spektor Begin to Hope

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