[ed. note -- anyone that wants to guess #1, feel free to drop a comment. If you guess right, I'll upload one (non-protected) song of your choice from my iTunes playlist (careful, it's a long list).]
Begin To Hope
Another album that blindsided me; I was not a Spektor fan before this year. Her vocal pyrotechnics made me sort of uncomfortable — even though I used to listen to Tori bang on her piano and howl, listening to “Uh-Merica” was just a little much for me. Just a personal thing, I think, and it kept me from beautiful songs like “Ne Me Quitte Pas” and “Reading Time With Pickle.” So I was very glad to find on “Begin To Hope” that she’s polished everything up. The pyrotechnics are still there, but damped a little bit. This probably bugs the heck out of devoted listeners, but it increases Spektor’s accessibility and since she gets VH-1 time and a Logan/Veronica kiss scene on “Veronica Mars,” I’d say that it’s successful on the whole.
Spektor’s songwriting is gold caliber — it’s almost impossible to pick the best-written. They feel classic, almost archetypal — let’s consider “On the Radio” for a minute. It starts out irreverent:
This is how it works — it feels a little worse /
than when we drove our hearse right through that screaming crowd
and eventually segues into this beautiful, minimal summary of the human condition:
This is how it works — you’re young until you’re not /
you love until you don’t / you try until you can’t.
You laugh until you cry / you cry until you laugh; /
and everyone must breathe until their dying breath.
and then she goes and tops it with:
No, this is how it works — you peer inside yourself /
You take the things you like and try to love the things you took /
And then you take that love you made and stick it into some
Someone else’s heart pumping someone else’s blood /
And walking arm in arm you hope it don’t get harmed /
But even if it does you’ll just do it all again
Basically, a more succinct representation of the joy and folly of love, you could not find. I could go on all day, but it wouldn’t do that song justice. And what’s more, all the songs on the album are like that. “Apres Moi” is in three languages, for crying out loud. “Summer in the City” juxtaposes the cheerfulness of summer with personal loneliness: Summer in the city, I’m so lonely lonely lonely / so I went to a protest just to rub up against strangers. And “Lady” is beautifully bluesy, with that fabulous refrain I can sing this song so blue / that you will cry in spite of you / little wet tears on your baby’s shoulder / little wet tears on your baby’s shoulder.
Spektor has managed to strike a balance between songwriting, singing, originality, and theatricality that is unmatched this year. I have listened to “Begin To Hope” about a hundred times so far, and I’m sure I’ll listen to it a hundred more. And if you’re like me and you would have liked “Soviet Kitsch” but it was a little raw, please give this album a try. It’s practically perfect in every way*.
[see Best of 2006 for more]
[*please don't sue me, Disney.]
Tags: regina spektor