Regina Spektor – Begin To Hope

Album the fourth, and the second to be on a real label, and I guess Regina decided she was tired of playing house shows, because this one screams “HEY! This is a serious music album! Singing along is encouraged but no zany fun allowed!” This means a lot more serious songs about her emotions and practised notes. Basically, it’s a paradigm shift: she stops fucking around at the cost of getting sorta Lilith Fair.

The second piece of zaniness I notice immediately about this here album is that the first four songs are a big, obvious slab of Elton John level yelling of “play me! Play me play play me!” Three of the four are love songs with the main hooks being orchestral trills, the songs have drums, and bass and synths (suggested name for her live band: Reggie and the Full Spekt). The fourth is a slightly sped-up version of Songs’ tearjerker “Samson.” Not that these are bad songs, mind you. In fact, they’re four of the five best on the album. They’re loaded with originality, lovely lyrics, and those trills I mentioned are just great. “Fidelity” is the most chick-rock-ish but I, a strong, highly insecure man often listen to it and its message of finding someone after having “never loved nobody fully,” The build-up opening of “Better” still gets me every time, “Samson” is still as touching as a long finger, and “On the Radio” is a love song, yes, but it sounds like someone’s errant thoughts while lying on grass with their lover. So it’s not “I love so much,” but instead “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 breath / Until their dying breath,” and only the start of the great lyrics. Any time the album comes on I immediately turn the volume way up and keep it that way for the first four songs.

However, to the shame of the many nations, the next seven songs are forgettable. “Field Below” is boring. I want to punch the little melody of “Hotel Song” in the face. “Lady” is about a jazz singer and has horns and I still can’t remember it after hearing it twenty times. The only good songs from this part of the album are “Edit,” which is catchy but fluff that ain’t got a speck on the five great songs on this album, and “That Time,” which sure gets stuck in my head and has some great lyrics, but I have a few beefs with it, vegetarianism notwithstanding: a) It’s really obviously this album’s “Your Honor,” being the one guitar-led song here, b) It’s way better until that awful “hey remember that time you Oded?” Gets way too serious for a song that already had enough poignancy for five songs in the line “Remember that time I tried to save that pigeon with a broken wing / A street cat got him and I had to bury pieces of his body in my building’s playground / I thought I was gonna be sick.”

Your reward for getting through that middle, if you’re still awake, is the fantastic “Summer in the City,” a song which starts with the line “Summer in the city / means cleavage, cleavage, cleavage,” somehow only gets better from there, and really has no weaknesses musically or lyrically. It’s a classic, and maybe Regina’s best song ever. Shame about the previous seven! Also, sometimes my brain imagines she’s singing “Samsung” instead of “Samson,” but never finishes the rest of the “commercial.” Also, judging from the cover, Regina’s funny lookin’.

7/10

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