Begin To Hope
By: Eric Greenwood
Regina Spektor isn't just another in an endless line of quirky female singer-songwriters with classical training; she adds Russian Jew from New York City to the formula, which may or may not scare you away. Her penchant for hyperbolic melancholy and fairy tale whimsy easily invites comparisons to the post-Plathian Fiona Apples and Tori Amoses of the world, but she's infinitely more bizarre than both put together.
Spektor's last record, Soviet Kitsch, showcased her intimidating talent as a composer as well as her uncanny ability to turn nattering self-deprecation into dramatic bombast without alienating the listener. Her voice trills effortlessly through coos and girlish hiccups and then unexpectedly bursts into sustaining blasts of operatic power. It's an odd mix of sparse pop, flowery piano balladry, wild eccentricity and random verbal playfulness that annoys as much as it entreats.
Her first proper major label recording, Begin to Hope, leans slightly towards a more pop-oriented domain with radio-accessible songs like "Better" that may offend her fanatic base of fans (the ones who just crave the weirdo piano-ballad drama), but the record expands on her growing strength as a purveyor of idiosyncratic anti-pop with more depth and breadth. Spektor's command of melody is staggering in its ability to lull listeners into her short attention span and spastic synaptic misfires, which make up the foundation of her frighteningly unique music.
Having toiled away her early twenties in the New York City café scene with her oddly confessional anti-folk, Spektor caught a break when producer Gordon Raphael hooked her up with The Strokes, whom she opened for on a 2003 tour. With some real exposure under her belt, Spektor is now on the cusp of turning her niche fanbase into something far more secure and lasting. Begin to Hope, despite its girly angst title, could easily be the record to break her.