If there was such thing as a “Top Tier of Singer/Songwriters,” then Regina Spektor would definitely be sitting on that level. Her entire discography has been praised by both fans and critics alike, making her one of the more accessible and consistent artists out there today. Sure, she hasn’t gotten the notoriety she once had with her gentle hit “Fidelity” years ago, but her albums as a whole have more than held their own. And with movies and television shows now digging into her back catalog (like the excellent (500) Days Of Summer and Weeds), her music is becoming more and more a part of the every day culture – however subtle and quiet that might actually be.
Now three years since her last album Far, Regina is back with What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, a rather quirky take on her music set to satisfy new listeners, but could possibly alienate long time listeners along the way.
The first single “All The Rowboats” is a rather bombastic and surprisingly loud pop song that has the most driving drums I’ve heard on any previous Spektor output. The first three songs are also rough listens the first couple times around. “Oh Marcello” brings a sort of adorable awkwardness that would be found littered in an episode of New Girl, while “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” mixes French and English lyrics with an Owl City back beat. Both of the songs did nothing for me at first, but after multiple listenings became rather enjoyable.
Where Regina has shined throughout her career were her soft ballads, and Cheap Seats is no different. The absolutely gorgeous “Firewood” is a devastating ode to losing the instrument that she has made hers all this time (the piano, if you don’t know). The soulful love song “How” has a downbeat that resembles something that would play in a 1950′s diner on a jukebox. The most startling/captivating song on Cheap Seats is without a doubt “Ballad Of A Politician.” The lyrics harken to those aiming for the White House, and what they have to do to get in good to get in good with everyone, including telling them to “shake your ass out in that street.”
One thing I would normally complain about was it’s length. Coming in with 12 songs and about 37 minutes, Cheap Seats is a nice, soft, and pleasing listen. The length of the tracks are at a perfect length, making each song not out do its welcome. The closer, the gentle two minute guitar ballad “Jessica” is a very nice way to close out the album, and makes me want to come back to the Cheap Seats again and again.
What We Saw From The Cheap Seats might have flaws, but the 37 minutes and solid tracks throughout makes for an enjoyable listening experience. Spektor’s voice still carries enough whimsical weight that makes each track thoroughly enjoyable. There are some flubs first listen through, but everything after that makes for another solid Spektor album. And the amount of replay value in this album makes for a consistently pleasant experience. Here’s to you, Mrs. Spektor; your spot in the fictional upper tier of singer/songwriters is still yours.
Final Grade: A-
Go Download: “Ballad Of A Politician”