Regina Spektor - Home, before and after Music Album Reviews

Regina Spektor - Home, before and after Music Album Reviews
Regina Spektor’s first album in six years is weighty and ambitious, full of sweeping string arrangements and cosmic ruminations on love and loss.

A great Regina Spektor song unfurls like a short story with the boring parts excised. Like “Chemo Limo,” “Samson,” and other iPod-era bangers, “Becoming All Alone” fits the bill. It’s a wry ballad that imagines what it might be like to grab a beer with God, and its lonesome chorus has that Spektorian quality of making sincerity seem like a superpower. Watching Spektor, alone at the piano, debut the song at a benefit concert back in 2014, I remember feeling like I was being let in on a secret. Someone uploaded an amateur recording to YouTube, and fans passed it around like a treasure, wondering when she might record the song.

Now, nearly eight years later, that wish has been granted. “Becoming All Alone” is the opening song on Spektor’s eighth album, Home, before and after. But the track’s quiet vulnerability has been lost. The studio version is ornamented with vast, Technicolor strings and a beefy, “Torn”-adjacent drum loop that has the odd task of imposing a funky backbeat onto a track that isn’t particularly funky at all. There’s a great song hiding there, but the arrangement is so slick it makes “Fidelity” sound like a demo.

I know, I know: Don’t get too attached to the early live version. It’s an unspoken rule of pop fandom. Yet the song’s evolution reflects the guiding impulse on Spektor’s first album since 2016. Working remotely for the first time, Spektor recorded her parts in a converted church in upstate New York, while John Congleton produced the record from California. The songs are among her most memorable since the Begin to Hope/Far era, yet there’s an occasional disconnect between the songwriting and the arrangements, which are pitched towards bombastic, widescreen gestures.

Take “What Might Have Been,” which begins as a whimsical recounting of contrasts (“Sickness and flowers go together/Bombing and shelters go together”) before swelling into a windswept chorus caked in Broadway glitter. It sounds majestic, and certainly expensive, but the production flattens the songwriter’s nervy eccentricities.

Spektor’s childlike whimsy is still intact—“Loveology” culminates with her taking the guise of a schoolteacher, listing made-up words ending in “-ology”—but it’s set against a certain solemnity, a heaviness. The record is full of cosmic ruminations; nearly every tune builds to some grand, italicized proclamation about love or loss or dislocation: “Love is enough of a reason to stay” (“Coin”), “Home is where the light’s on!” (“Through a Door”), and so on. Weightiest of all is “Spacetime Fairytale,” a nine-minute epic that flits between grave orchestral brooding and playful piano interludes. Its ambition is staggering and its subject, the immensity of time, compelling, but it’s undermined by a gather-round-m’child tone, replete with hokey rhymes like “The story must go on/So keep listening, my son.”

Spektor’s best work evokes great fiction not just because of its imaginative sense of character (refreshing at a time when sensitive songwriters are sometimes presumed to deliver uncut dispatches of their own trauma), but also in the mood twists and surprise endings she deploys. “One Man’s Prayer” is an instantly great example. It’s written as a plea from a lonely, incel-type guy—“If I won’t get to meet God/And I won’t get to be a God/Then at least God let me get looked at by a girl”—rendered sympathetic until the last verse, when it suddenly shifts into a dissection of power and misogyny. It’s compelling writing, emblematic of Spektor’s empathy and curiosity, and the song pulls off its glossy soft-rock leanings.

Spektor has always been a jumble of contradictions: a classically trained, Russian-born pianist who toured with the Strokes, won over the Meet Me in the Bathroom crowd, turned a multisyllabic pronunciation of the word “heart” into an unlikely chart hit, and charmed everyone from Chance the Rapper to Bill de Blasio, who fêted her at Gracie Mansion in 2019. Her songs have sometimes been unfairly dismissed as precious or twee, but there has always been that undercurrent of dark humor (who else could pull off a rousing singalong about carbon monoxide poisoning?) coursing through their veins.

Now, two decades removed from her debut, Spektor is modernizing her sound and harking back to her early years all at once. The prominent use of programmed beats—an experiment that pays off on the dizzying, feverish “Up the Mountain,” which evokes Post-era Björk and ancient folktales all at once—reflects the former impulse. Yet her decision to finally record old fan favorites like “Loveology” and “Raindrops,” both of which she debuted at concerts in the early 2000s, reflects that sense of time collapsing, as “Spacetime Fairytale” portends, within her own discography.

Despite those songs’ faraway origins, you won’t mistake Home, before and after for an early Spektor recording. Vocally, this record is more accessible than anything she’s done. There are no throaty gasps, no out-of-nowhere falsetto squeals, no on-off Bronx accent. Her voice has deepened; her range is immense.

In a recent Guardian interview, Spektor reflected on that early-career outpouring of songs that generated “Loveology” and “Raindrops.” “I didn’t have any responsibilities,” Spektor recalled. “I would read a book; I would write a song.”

On those early records, like Soviet Kitsch, there was a bracing sense of raw possibility. Songs could swing from kooky anti-folk to cabaret to punk outbursts on a whim. Home, before and after, by contrast, sounds like the work of a seasoned professional. Every note is meticulous; every orchestral swell magnificently labored over. Back then, Spektor could captivate audiences with nothing but a piano (and maybe a single drumstick slamming against a chair). She still can, of course, when cornball production flourishes aren’t getting in her way.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Regina Spektor - Home, before and after Music Album Reviews Regina Spektor - Home, before and after Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, July 01, 2022 Rating: 5

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