Spektor Not Going ‘Cheap’

Courtesy of Sire Records

Our lovely redheaded Russian-American friend has just released her sixth studio album, “What We Saw from the Cheap Seats,” and let me tell you, when tickets go on sale, seats ain’t gonna be cheap to see her live.

Known for her hits like “Us,” which was featured in the indie flick “(500) Days of Summer,” and the catchy love song “Fidelity,” Regina Spektor found her niche in the New York City anti-folk scene in 2004 and has garnered more and more attention as the years have passed.

Spektor’s latest release still features her omnipresent piano and raw yet sugary voice. The album kicks off with “Small Town Moon,” which begins much like her previous hit “Better” did, with a melancholic-tinged piano riff that is accented by Spektor’s voice, which sings, “I must have left a thousand times, / but every day begins the same.”

Spektor’s piano skills are simultaneously raw and refined, with notes of extreme polish and precision to moments of sudden unfiltered sound that serve as a perfect accent to the pomp and circumstantial moments.

“What We Saw from the Cheap Seats” maintains a balance between airy and upbeat tunes to woeful songs of unrequited love. Melancholic numbers include “Firewood,” where Spektor’s voice is so quiet and high-pitched, with the lyrics radiating with sentiment. With “How,” Spektor keeps the sentiment flowing as she sings: “How can I forget your love, / How can I never see you again,” is juxtaposed against a simple piano that softly plays alongside her slightly deeper voice. Eventually, a muted drum comes in to give the tune a bluesy take, a nice surprise coming from Spektor.

Also a nice surprise from the songstress is “All of the Rowboats,” a more fierce song that comes with a defiant piano and synthetic drum beat. It seems to be the one song where Spektor attempts to be more hardcore, but in her own distinct way, of course. The song is catchy, as she sings, “I touch a sculpture, / When no one’s looking,” making it sound as if it’s a song about exploring a museum in the dark of night.

With songs like “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas),” “Patron Saint” and “Oh Marcello,” Spektor keeps the mood light and a bit more fun when compared to songs like “Ballad of a Politician,” where she sings, “Shake it, shake it, shake it baby, / Shake it out in the streets.” In “Oh Marcello,” Spektor takes lyrics from Santa Esmeralda’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” which was the song that played in “Kill Bill: Volume 1” when the Bride fought O-Ren Ishii in an epic samurai battle. But I digress. Spektor sings “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good” in her charmingly folk way.

In a recent interview with NPR, Spektor said of the piano, “It’s cool that to you it seemed classical and to me it seemed totally amateurish. But that’s the awesomeness of — I don’t know, just letting things out of your hands and into other people’s worlds and having it completed by them.”

With each album that Spektor releases, listeners are given a rare treat. With Spektor’s Russian roots and her piano riffs and unmatched vocals, we’ll always think of her as cool and never amateurish.

Rating: 4 out of 5