Regina Spektor, Begin To Hope
The new face of quirky piano pop makes every song an anthem
2004's Soviet Kitsch might have been Regina Spektor's breakthrough, but Begin to Hope is the album that made her the face of quirky piano-pop; you'd be hard-pressed, in 2006, to find a heartbroken girl who wasn't singing, "You are my sweetest downfall/ I loved you first." Spektor's songs are honest, mostly-innocent heartbreakers that are spiked with unexpected lines about cocaine ("Hotel Room") and dudes wanting "to feel the bulges in their pants start to rise" ("Summer In The City").
Musically, Begin to Hope is both grander and more stripped down than its predecessor: The ballads "Samson" and "Field Below" are accompanied by little more than Spektor's piano; "Edit" and "Hotel Song" use drum-machine beats and synths; "On The Radio" has strings and handclaps. It's all fronted by a playful, perfectly articulated mezzo-soprano that sometimes breaks out into "ah-ah-ahs," beat-boxing or other vocal effects. Though not typically autobiographical, every Spektor song tells a story — but from the heartbreaking "Samson" and "Fidelity" to the defiant refrain of "Aprés Moi," every story on Begin to Hope became an anthem.