Rising Stars [Issue
Finding Quirky Hope By
Begin to Hope
The word critics love to use for Regina Spektors music is quirky.
Thats 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 Spektors new album on Sire Records, Begin
To Hope. Theyre typical of the albums 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
You dont even know the true lineage of your songs, she says.
Maybe Im 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 someones 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 shes 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 cant break that which isnt 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 its hell down here in this smoke filled world
Where the jokes are cold
They dont 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 Im becoming less of a narrator and
more of a character these days. I was always used to observing and writing third
person narrative stories.
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, 2003s 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 Ive
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 its really sparse.
But for those fans who hang on to Regina Spektors 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