Regina Spektor - Begin to Hope

Hypothetical question here. Ready? Ok. What if Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, and Psapp all had a baby together? Well, assuming in the first place that that many people could make one baby, I have a feeling it would end up a lot like Regina Spektor.

Regina Spektor has all the dramatic presence of Tori Amos, the experimental edge of Psapp, and the youthful whimsy of Fiona Apple. In fact, with her fire red hair and crimson pout, she really does resemble both Ms. Apple and Lady Amos an awful lot. Still, to pigeon hole Spektor as just another piano-pounding wanna-be would be a huge mistake. Even though she is heavily influenced by various jazz, classical and independent artists, Regina has made her sound very original and completely her own.

Begin to Hope takes you on a musical rollercoaster ride of emotion, much like reliving your most fickle of teenage years. The tracks are at times restless, moody, and dark; and then suddenly wild and bursting with a kind of contagious, agile promise. On “Better,” Spektor makes you feel if you have just fallen into an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” It’s hopeful, but also sad. It’s energetic, but also ponderous. And the lyrics are heartbreakingly relatable: “If I kiss you where it’s sore, Will you feel better, better, better or Will you feel anything at all?” And later: “You’re getting sadder, getting sadder, getting sadder, getting sadder and I don’t understand.” It left me with a kind of to-be-continued sort of feeling. I want to know what happens next!

“Apres Moi,” on the other hand, gives you the feeling of swaying violently back and forth on a boat, riding harsh grey waves under a dark and stormy ocean sky. Maybe it’s because the lyrics are from a poem by the notoriously dark Boris Pasternik. “I must go on standing. You can't break that which isn't yours, I, oh, must go on standing. I'm not my own, it's not my choice.” Listen closely: Spektor sings them not only in English, but also in Russian as an ode to both the poet and to her familial heritage.

26 year-old Regina moved with her family to New York when she was nine years old (which explains her suspiciously perfect pronunciation of Pasternik’s slavic poetry). At the time of the Spektors’ arrival, they were the only Russian-Jews in their neighborhood borough. Spektor describes herself as a bit of an outcast, “an underdeveloped child. A ten-year-old with the body of a six year old.” Instead of enduring the taunts from the other children playing outside, however, she chose to practice her piano scales at home on the window ledge, playing regularly at the family synagogue. She explains, “In my family, we were never blessed with money. In a lot of ways, we had failed in the American sense of owning this or owning that, but we have been overly successful in terms of education.”

All of the practice later paid off when she was accepted into the prestigious SUNY Purchase Music Conservatory where she studied the many different genres of music that would later mold her style. She self-released two albums before being discovered by Strokes’ producer, Gordon Raphael, who proclaimed her as being, “a revelation . . . one of the purest musical offerings I’ve ever seen, certainly among the most brilliant.” He produced her third album Soviet Kitsch, and had her tour and record with the Strokes, who also contributed guitar licks to BTH’s“Better.”

So strap yourself in for the emotional rollercoaster ride and pick up a copy of Regina Spektor’s Begin to Hope. This emotive prodigy won’t actually turn you back into a moody teenager (thank God), but she will definitely help you relive some of the hopeful, sad, and blissfully promising moments of a sweeter, simpler time.

-- Penny Lane Emerson

Release Date: June 13, 2006

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