Back in April 2007 I made this great joke. Let me reprint it: “Hey, I’ll give you five dollars to add Barack Obama on Facebook and post a comment saying “God doesn’t want us to elect black people.” Come on! It’s free money! But really, how about them black people? It reminds me of this time I walked through the South Bronx at night on principle and nothing happened because it’s not like they want to cause any trouble; don’t bother anyone and odds are they won’t bother you, even in a bad area of a big city.” Okay, it isn’t a joke, and it isn’t great, and it’s out of date and stupid, but at least I was prescient about who would become an important political figure, and I don’t see you holding him accountable for being a company man who takes his left wing base for granted while reacting badly to the far right’s legion of absurd character assassinations, which is precisely what my little joke does do, so about running along and maybe we’ll all win the lottery.
Speaking of New York (link), Regina Spektor is from there, and this goes to prove that people from cities are better than people who aren’t. It’s piano-led pop music with jazz influences and lyrics that read like she has a good reason to get up in the morning when she’s not being overly cutesy. There’s a healthy dose of standup bass, too, even leading a couple songs, including the excellent “Rejazz.” Regina sounds like a bohemian Ani DiFranco without the self-important rage raging against the dying of the light, though she would become more singular later on. Slightly lost but smarter than you and you want to hang out with her after the show even if she does over-emote at times. I get the urge while listening to use the adjective “classical,” but I don’t feel justified using that about any particular songs. Alternately, it sounds a bit like Amy Winehouse might have sounded had she been cool, bohemian, and antifolk instead of an insane sellout.
There aren’t fantastic musical hooks – she was 21, four years younger than me for fuck’s sakes – when she made this, and I’m deeply in admiration of her ability to complete something artistic at that age…She doesn’t have the lyrical immaturity that marks a lot of other young artists, though there is some knee-jerk tee-hee “humour” that might bother you if you’re thoughtful. Wacky nadirs include:
The inexcusable “her do[w]g DEE OH DOUBLEYOU GEE” in “Back of a Truck.” Why did you spell “dog” this way, Regina? And why be so proud of your misspelling that you then spell it out letter by letter? ]
“Flyin” sounds like something a 17-year old hippie girl might write after getting back from tree planting for the summer.
“Wasteside” is overly cloying and has no hooks.
“Pavlov’s Daughter” is a great chorus trapped inside eight minutes of a weird drum machine, annoying beat-boxing, and embarrassing quasi-rap.
“Braille,” on top of having an odd, not very good Maritime folk-style melody, tries twice to romanticize “cold, cold Campbell’s from the can” and THAT’S NOT POIGNANT.
Completely spoken word “I Want To Sing” is actually really sweet! Which is a nadir for this list, innit? Here I’m presuming a list of poor song moments would prefer to remain as much.
Actually, know what? It’s hardly fair to call this album piano-led at all! Only like half the songs are! It has more variety than I gave it credit for, even if she would later realize that piano was what she was best at. I know I could fix what I just wrote, but I’m mostly writing these reviews to avoid writing more serious, stressful things. But you know. This one’s not generally available and she’d do much better, but the restlessness and creativity in these growing pains are indicative of the lovely piano she’d become.