Regina Spektor is an Russian-American alternative singer-songwriter and pianist. Her music is associated with the anti-folk scene centered in New York City’s (NY) East Village. She makes quirky, highly eclectic, but always personal music. Anti-folk is a music genre that takes the earnestness of politically charged 1960s folk music and subverts it. How is this 32 year old artist influenced by this type of music? It is because, in NY, Spektor studied classic piano with Sonia Vargas, a professor at the Manhattan School of Music, until she was 17. And the rest is history.
Her sixth studio album is entitled What We Saw from the Cheap Seats. It was recently released and was produced with Mike Elizondo. The album is a collection of new material along with the very first studio recordings of several of Spektor’s older live songs. It has eleven songs, with a total running time of 37 minutes, enough to mesmerize its listeners.
All the Rowboats, one of the songs, was the album’s first single released for streaming on February 27, 2012, and for digital download the following day. The song reminds me of an old Ben Stiller movie, Night at the Museum (2006), as if all the paintings and exhibits are all alive. The lyrics goes “All the galleries, the museums, they will stay there forever and a day, All the rowboats in the oil paintings. They keep trying to row away, row away.” But what strikes me most is the way she express her love with the violin: “God, I pity the violins In glass coffins they keep coughing They’ve forgotten how to sing.”
While her second single Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me quitte pas) is a new version of “Ne me quitte pas”, a song originally from Spektor’s 2002 album “Songs”. The song described her favorite place, “And yes, the now New York will thaw but if you are a friend of any sort then play along and catch a cold!”, and how she spends her childhood days “Down in Bronxy-Bronx the kids go sledding down snow-covered slopes,” which makes this song so memorable.
The nine remaining songs are yet to be discovered and appreciated by the public. Small Town Moon, talks of not an actual place, but a “town” inside the mind. Oh Marcello describes “a soul whose intention is good Oh lord please don’t let me be misunderstood”. In the song, Firewood, the singer clearly expresses that as a musician “The piano is not firewood yet,” for as long as there is music in her heart, she will continuously play her song.
Patron Saint is a song that shows that true love exists. How is what I feel to be the most hypnotic song in the album that talks about how to mend a broken heart because “Time can come and take away the pain But I just want my memories remain.” Ballad of a Politician is a song dedicated to all intelligent voters out there. Please listen to this song and hear how traditional politicians think and act. The Party is a happy song that invites everyone to join in a big celebration of life. And finally, Jessica, whoever she is please “wake up.”
Spektor’s music came from what she saw from the cheap piano seats, which are love and life.