Regina Spektor: ‘Home, Before and After’ Album Review
Twee is back, in case you haven’t heard. Items like this one commemorating the return of the hipster subculture of the late 2000s/early 2010s more likely refers to the fashions of the time (think Zooey Deschanel bangs and lots of plaids), but if the new Regina Spektor’s album is any indication, so music from the twee era may be in for a revival, too. Spektor’s latest is laced with whimsical indie-pop stylings that wouldn’t seem out of place on records by twee artists like Belle and Sebastian, Feist, or Spektor herself. But where What we saw of cheap seats (Spektor’s 2012 offering) was pink and tacky, House, before and after, his long-awaited eighth studio album, is a more sophisticated delicacy, perhaps something creamy sprinkled with espresso. This is Spektor both the most serious and the most adventurous.
Spektor, however, fully embraces a sugar rush on the song “SugarMan,” a catchy pop track featuring the Russian-born, New York-raised singer/songwriter’s signature tune. Spektor has always had a way of shattering pop conventions only to bring them together in his own way, and “Sugar Man” is the epitome of that process.
House is co-produced by Spektor and John Congleton, who have helped artists like Sharon Van Etten and St. Vincent chase their sounds in bold new directions. The fruits of a partnership with Congleton, in this case, are apparent at nearly every moment of the album, from the song-ending hurricane on the eclectic “Spacetime Fairytale” to the synthesized stupor of “One Man’s Prayer.” . The album’s occasionally supernatural arrangements reveal a new strain of warmth snaking through Spektor’s words. Even when she plays the role of a stubborn romantic man in “One Man’s Prayer,” in which she explores the psyches of lonely and dangerous men, we are granted a pleasant space to collect our thoughts. Spektor does not sympathize with incels. She simply shows us a character, and the feelings that arise afterwards are up to us. Whereas House leaves a lot of room for rumination, said Spektor herself Vulture she “isn’t trying, with this record, to make you think of anything or change your mind about anything”.
The most classic Regina Spektor-y Regina Spektor song on the album has to be “Loveology,” which, along with the lullaby “Raindrops,” has been floating around in the ether for some time and pops up from time to time in her concerts. , but has only just found its place on an album. And since it’s a clever love song about doing nothing at all, it’s the perfect complement to House‘s often frantic tracklisting. “Up the Mountain” is also grounded, but in a different way. Its assurances of “In the flower, there is a nectar / In the nectar, there is an answer” are sewn with a traveling talk-chant similar to that of Life Without Buildings, and it contains as much wisdom as “The Leanover of this group. ”
If “Up the Mountain” and “Becoming All Alone” (which states, “Everyone gives me car sickness” and asks, “If you have a heart, why don’t you use it?”) are the album’s anchors, so the aforementioned “Spacetime Fairytale” is where House becomes happily undocked. As Spektor sings, “The world started out of time / Some days it’s yours, some days it’s mine, some days it’s cruel, some days it’s kind, it can’t stay the same”), it sounds like the climactic ballad of a Sondheim show until it implodes, collapsing into a sonic vortex that sucks every beautiful note into a dispersed whirlwind. “Through a Door” also picks up a page from the Broadway book, with its crackling piano, sweeping strings and Spektor’s chorus belt. And “What Might Have Been,” a series of oxymorons, swells into something resembling the schizophrenic music of red Millonly much more tame.
Balancing big ideas with bizarre production and whimsical musical creation, Spektor takes big swings House, but also stays true to its unique style. Ever charming, the lady of New York music continues to produce eight electrifying pop piano albums. “Samson”, but it doesn’t sound like an album that sets out to do such things. House, before and after is simply the collection of songs Spektor needed to release at the time – and she’s the only one who could have it.
Feverishly oscillating between elevated pop and bombastic tales, House once again finds Spektor working in a dimension where gender does not exist. Whether she’s swimming in theories about space and time, or just playing a few scales to make a love song, Spektor’s words and melodies on House, before and after are a dazzling delight. Twee or not, she remains one of the great musical treasures of the Empire State, and therefore a treasure for all of us.
Ellen Johnson is a former Dough music publisher and lifelong pop culture enthusiast. Currently, she is an aspiring editor, freelance writer and marathon runner. You can find her tweeting about anything on Twitter @ellen_a_johnson and review Little woman on Letter box.