Currently wrapping up
tour, the chanteuse du jour ain’t quirky. Not in the least.
BY A.D. AMOROSI
The funny thing about Regina Spektor – but not quirky, no
way, keep reading – is how she presents herself in song and story with such
oddly eloquent finesse.
While there’s something left of her raw post-anti-folk start
(ahh, the New York City of 2001’s jazzbo-blue 11:11 seems so far away now) and her 180 degree spin toward 2004’s
sparsely piano-pounded Soviet Kitsch,
the changes the 29 year old enacted with the rich torchy pop of 2006’s Begin to Hope have grown in leaps and
bounds ‘til we hit the present. That’d be the recently released Far; its kaleidoscopic draping and
purplish tones running behind Spektor’s lulling, prickling trill like a slowly
burning strip of film provided by producers as wide ranging as Jeff Lynne,
David Kahne, Mike Elizondo, and “Jacknife” Lee.
Yet for as memorable as the spooky melodies and idea behind
“Genius Next Door” or as devastatingly devout as “Laughing With” confides,
little is as bodacious as hearing Spektor talk about it all. Yes, she’s a
Russian immigrant but doesn’t own a TV, so she doesn’t keep track of what goes
on there. No, she’s not organized enough to be premeditated, so even the most
epically produced tracks on Far come
across like surprises. Indeed, when we discussed things we thought, as
children, we’d grow up to be (“Astronaut” was mine), Spektor admits it was
always a musician. “I might’ve thought teaching kids music or being a classical
pianist but what the fuck was I going to do with that?” she giggles.
For this fifth album, Spektor was merely trying to push a
little farther than she had previously, something to combat that “been
there-done that” sensation. “It might be a reaction to myself or it might be me
trying to use more of what I have, what I am and what I’ve learned.” If you
look at Spektor’s musical path, she thinks that more things happening within
the sound. “I started out trying to get songs as they were – completely pure
with no involvement from any outside sources – to exploring more of the
recording’s techniques.” You certainly heard some of that in the eerily
operatic layering of Begin to Hope.
But she wanted more, especially since that inclination to explore, expound and
expand came late in Hope‘s game.
“Groove, textures – I dabbled. With this record I went straight into where I
left off,” says Spektor, of Far‘s
sequel to a prequel that just barely happened.
That sense of cinema can be continued on through several
songs on Far: the serio-comic “The Wallet” and its traveling fates; Kafka-in-The Twilight Zone of “Genius next Door”
(“that science fiction to me,” she says); even the daringly devout “Laughing
With” feels like one of Tom Tryon’s books put to the test of faith – a
conversation with God where the Divine One has some fun.
“I’m always mulling over it” says Spektor, when asked what
her true relationship to her faith might be. “I come at God and faith in
different ways on different days. I don’t have a manifesto relationship with
God. I know that I’ve had faith since I was a kid, a real inner-faith feeling.
But I do wonder about the role of religion and tradition and religion. We have
to get used to the fact that some of us have faith, some of us don’t and that
we just have to let it be that it’s neither is right or wrong.” With all this –
and the romanticism of heartier Far fare such as “Two Birds” and “One More Time with Feeling” – there’s a certain thiiiing about what’s behind everything:
a low level tension that seems to haunt her best lyrical volleys and her vocal
tics. It’s not so much a secret message or stressed-out angst afoot as it is
the influence of her grandmother. “The one on my father’s side, yeah; it’s very
possible that it’s there and it came from her. I think very fast and come at
things with the worst case scenario first. I’m a worrier,” she laughs, adding,
“not a warrior.”
For all of her five accomplished albums and their rounded
development, audiences and critics alike use a word that’s most insolent in
describing Spektor: quirky. If you take what Spektor does to be bold and
beautiful, “quirky” comes across as coolly contemptuous. “It’s a dismissive
word to certain people, but I understand what people mean,” says Spektor
calmly. “I guess I’d rather be considered quirky than put on. Any of these
sounds might seem quirky to some, but to me they’re just fucking natural. So
So far. So there.
Regina Spektor tour dates at her MySpace page: www.myspace.com/reginaspektor.
Photo Credit: Edward