Regina Spektor: What We Saw from the Cheap Seats

Related Posts

When Regina Spektor composes lyrics, she doesn’t write them down. This can be a problem; lyrics slip through the cracks of memory like change between couch cushions. What she does manage to get down into a song, however, tends to be memorable, a sweet bit of candy for the ears. Her newest album, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, is sweet but never saccharine, a superb follow-up to 2009’s Far.

Spektor’s ability to craft sublime bits of music is unquestionable. Classically trained in piano, Spektor uses the instrument as an extension of her voice, her wide vocal range frollicking as her fingers play over the keys. The album mixes poppy joy, as in “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas),” a song that Spektor has admitted is at least 10 years old, and plaintive compositions that drip with nostalgic yearning, as in “Firewood.” Reminiscent of “Samson,” off Spektor’s first big studio release, 2006’s Begin to Hope, “Firewood” is paradoxical, evoking a weary sort of joy. “Love what you have, and you’ll have more love,” she sings and her lyric structure is almost too reminiscent of “On the Radio” from Begin to Hope.

That might be Spektor’s problem. Too much of her music sounds too similar. “All the Rowboats” is a harrowing narrative of mausoleum museums but the piano is analogous to that of “Machine” from 2009’s Far, itself a chilling anecdote of entrapment. While Spektor can throw her voice, utilize unusual glottal stops and honey her tone, her thematic and compositional choices are lamentably restricted to a meager range.

However, for the listener, this is not necessarily a detractor. This is no cheap show, despite the fact that you are, theoretically, seeing it from the cheap seats. What We Saw from the Cheap Seats is a welcome addition to Spektor’s discography, as affecting and delightful as anything she’s made in the past.
— Natalie Reyes