Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor (May 29, 2012)

*** (out of four)

I've always loved Regina Spektor because she's not afraid to be a bit of a vocal kook. Maybe it's a confidence thing, because her voice and piano work are absolutely gorgeous, leaving her willing to make some pretty interesting noises. For example:

>> "Open," a quiet, lonely song is punctuated with some weird froggy-drowning gasps. Is she meant to be sobbing or just providing a distraction from her isolation?
>> "Oh Marcello," a riff on The Animals' "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," is full of songbirdy trills and what can only really be described as mouth drumming.
>> "Don't Leave Me (Ne Quitte Pas)" is in half-French! Whee!

You get the idea. Though Spektor's not nearly as well known a singer/pianist as the likes of Alicia Keys, that's probably due only to the fact that the Russian-born artist doesn't have the same Clive Davis juggernaut behind her. A spotlight that large would be perfectly warranted; Spektor's songwriting is crisp, fresh and develops a complex personality throughout "Cheap Seats." It's almost reminiscent of a live-in romantic relationship—when you spend your waking and sleeping life with someone, you learn their every mood and personality tic. We're listening to Spektor's life story, her therapy sessions, and she's perfectly willing to open up.

This album doesn't have any tracks that rise of the obsession-worthy level of Spektor tunes like "On The Radio" and "Samson" off 2006's "Begin To Hope," but it's easy to spot the best one. "What We Saw" smartly leads off with the "You Can't Go Home Again"-esque "Small Town Moon," which finds her waxing nostalgic with lines like, "I must've left a thousand times, but there's a small town in my mind," and my favorite, "Today we're younger than we're ever gonna be." Thanks for the reminder.

damoran@tribune.com  |  @redeyedana