Regina Spektor’s sixth studio album, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, is all over the place. There’s no direction, no purpose, no discernible theme; and yet it’s one of her best yet.
It’s like she just scooped out all the cream that floated to the top of her brain – the dizzy adoration, little wormy doubts, dramatic vignettes, flashes of New York, sorry feelings for violins behind glass.
There’s streaks of playful theatrics throughout, such as ‘Oh Marcello,’ which fluctuates from slowed soulful piano to crying in an over-the-top Italian accent; as well as ‘The Party’, in which she declares ‘you taste like birthday/you look like New Year’ while backed by marching drums.
There are moments when the melodrama is stripped of smiles, like in ‘Open’, with Spektor taking us by surprise with a sudden guttural gasp punctuating each line.
One of the stand-out tracks is almost missable, if you’re not really listening. The slow piano waltz, ‘Firewood,’ showcases Spektor’s best lyric-writing on the album. Each couplet is brimming with earnestness, ‘you’ll take the clock off of your wall/and you’ll wish that it was lying’. Hints of bigger storytelling in concise phrases, like the repeated line ‘the piano is not firewood yet.’
What We Saw from the Cheap Seats is a twisting, unpredictable ramble through the crevices of Spektor’s mind. Another hodgepodge of everything that enters her brain, gets chewed around a bit, and rearranged in true Spektor-ian style. A real step up.
- Tacey Rychter
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