Regina Spektor, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats (Deluxe Version)
Still quirky, but whipsmart and breathtaking
This is not the album where Regina Spektor breaks free of that “quirky” tag. There are too many playful tics (she’s sort of a homeschooled McFerrinite when it comes to puff-cheeked drum sounds) and impish impulses (if anybody can get away with saying “Bronxy Bronx,” it’s her). And “Oh Marcello” — which calls for a Super Mario Italian accent in the verses, then steals the chorus verbatim from “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” — yeah, that one’s particularly insane.
But, as we’ve come to expect from the Russian-born, classically trained, Bronxy Bronx piano player, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats is whipsmart and breathtakingly gorgeous. The tense and trip-hoppish anti-museum manifesto “All the Rowboats,” the blissfully tipsy toe-tapper “The Party,” the amber-tinted wake-up lullaby “Jessica” — so many of these songs are just total knockouts. Even the downers; “Call Them Brothers,” a duet with Jack Dishel of Only Son, is exactly the kind of maudlin you can slowdance to.
Sometimes it’s the unexpectedly plainspoken and barely quirkified moments that really get you. “Today we’re younger than we’re ever gonna be,” she insists on the snowballing pop tantrum “Small Town Moon.” Spektor really knows how to sell you on hope. “Firewood” is the world’s most delicate nut-up-or-shut-up power ballad: “Rise from your cold hospital bed. I tell you you’re not dying/ Everyone knows you’re going to live/So you might as well start trying.” Tough love? Sure, but it’s mostly love. She’s just a soul whose intentions are good.