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ALBUM REVIEW: Regina Spektor, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats

TITLE: What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
ARTIST: Regina Spektor
LABEL: Sire Records
RELEASED: May 29th 2012

The Russian born singer/songwriter released a new album a few weeks ago, which was her first since releasing the Live In London album in 2010. However, only one song on the new record is brand new, due to the amount of promotion Regina has done for these songs.

Jessica is the only track that she hadn’t performed live before while an alternate version of Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas) features on previous album Songs from 2002 and was released as a single in March as a follow-up to All The Rowboats, which was released in February. Despite receiving rave reviews from American critics and hitting the top spot in the Billboard Alternative Albums chart, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats only made it to number 24 in the UK album charts.

As you’d expect from the anti-folk star, it’s a quirky, fun album but it’s got a raw pop element to it particularly in tracks like Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas), which has an upbeat electronic intro, a trumpet solo and an incredibly catchy chorus. You find yourself wondering what other genres she could have possibly packed into one song!

Of course, as well as the pop tracks, the album is full of weird, avant-garde sounds such as Oh Marcello, Ballad Of A Politician and All The Rowboats. These tracks appeal to the hipster niche, which is rapidly growing and it’s possible that you have to be a certain kind of cool to love these tracks. Real issues that people care about are addressed in them though (love, current affairs and society), which steers them away from the kind of shallow, made-only-to-be-cool music that is around today. It’s classic geek chic with huge amounts of individuality squeezed in, which is something that Regina seems to have mastered.

Piano ballads such as How and Firewood could do really well, if they were released as singles and this is certainly where Regina Spektor excels. Completely stripped back and full of musical metaphors for life and love, the true height of her talents really shine through and although the subject matter is often depressing, you find yourself enjoying the ebbing and flowing of her vocals.

The album also features songs, which fall between her quirky anti-folk and classic piano-led ballads such as Patron Saint, The Party and Small Town Moon, which showcase both Regina’s piano skills and vocal range, while still featuring her upbeat Baroque sound. These tracks will probably be the most popular due to the fact that they’ll make everyone sit up, tap their foot and think “Hey, this is quite cool!”

Open is a track that stands out on the album, due to the amount of vocal variation. Regina takes us on a journey through her range from the low almost-whisper, the clear ring of her head voice and even to the depths of her chest with the aggressive, ghostly “uh!” which recurs towards the end. It’s got a touch of Florence + The Machine about it, in terms of its eerie tone and fading ending. The crashing cymbals and resonating instruments give it that haunting feeling that something a bit weird is definitely present. An incredibly powerful track that is certainly not of this world.

Jessica is a song for the summer and although it deals with a sad subject (death or near-death), it’s a beautiful acoustic track with so much emotion packed into just a few simple lines. Like other emotional tracks on the record, repetition is used in order to drum a message or feeling into the listener and on Jessica, it certainly creates the feeling of loss or hopelessness. Regina is great at taking very sad situations and somehow producing perfect little melodies.

What We Saw From The Cheap Seats is packed full of songs that draw inspiration from a variety of cultures that reflect Regina’s chequered heritage. In places, it’s very intellectual and many of the songs do take a lot of dissecting in order to extract any meaning and even then, there’s a whole host of interpretations that come out of them. It’s been described as possibly her best album yet and if the right songs are released, it could well become a high-selling record.

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