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Begin to Hope

Regina Spektor

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Album Review

On Begin to Hope, Regina Spektor treads a delicate balance between her anti-folk past and her present home on Sire Records. Though the label re-released Soviet Kitsch in 2004, Begin to Hope is Spektor's first original material for Sire, and it feels more like a major-label debut than Soviet Kitsch ever did. The album's big, glossy production and preponderance of drum machines and keyboards inches Spektor toward territory that isn't exactly mainstream, but is closer to a more conventional adult alternative singer/songwriter sound. Her songwriting mirrors this, too: "Field Below," which finds her wishing for the countryside while living in the city, has a mellow, appealingly rambling vibe that grows from the traditional singer/songwriter roots of Joni and Carole; "Better" takes the breathy, literate, pretty side of Spektor's music and tailors it into a radio-friendly single. "On the Radio" takes it a step further and becomes a smart, funny, and sad meta-single, with lyrics like "We listened to it twice/Because the DJ was asleep" backed by poppy synths and beats. But even though Begin to Hope's first few songs might suggest otherwise, Spektor is much too freewheeling and quirky a talent to stick to the straight and narrow for the entirety. Show tunes, classic soul, the Bible, and the backs of cereal boxes are all inspirations for the album. And whether she quotes the melody from Doris Payne's "Just One Look" and pairs it with lyrics about orca whales on "Hotel Song," or begins the lovely, confessional closing track, "Summer in the City," with the line "summer in the city means cleavage," Spektor uses them in unexpected ways. She also places some truly surreal, heady tracks toward Begin to Hope's end: "Lady" is a torchy number arranged for piano, saxophone, and typewriter, while "20 Years of Snow" is buoyed along by impressionistic keyboards that twinkle and tumble like a just-shaken snow globe. "Apres Moi," one of the album's most impressive tracks, showcases her classical piano training, her Russian heritage, and those biblical influences to ominous, paranoid effect. Leaving the more unique, quintessentially Regina Spektor-esque tracks at the end of Begin to Hope isn't so much a bait-and-switch as is a clever way to lure in and loosen the inhibitions of new fans. The album feels like getting to really know someone: at first, it's polite and a little restrained, but then its real personality, with all of its charming idiosyncrasies, finally reveals itself.

Customer Reviews

Songs for people who love songs

Regina Spektor can’t shake her kooky Russian accent. I like that. Regina’s lyrics paint between the gritty and the pretty. I like that. Regina’s songs aren’t all identical. I like that. Every Regina song tells a story. I like that. Regina isn’t tied to one single instrument set up (drums, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, lead guitar, singer). I like that. Regina’s songs have a unique perspective. I like that. Regina is original. I like that. I’d like to think RS will be big one day but mass audiences prefer their "girl singers" to be overly made up and sing songs that really work well in sappy big screen cartoons or for them to be hooker-ish and in yo’ face. Regina isn’t either of these. I like that, many won’t. Favorites in order of most liked: That Time Fidelity 20Years of Snow Hotel Song

A Great Release

I've been a fan of Regina for a while, and I have to admit, I was kind of worried that she'd be a sell-out with this album, what with all the attention she's had on MySpace and other websites. Still, I felt that it was only fair that I buy this album and give it a listen so that I could form a proper opinion on it, whether I liked it or not. It turns out that even after one listen, I had already fallen in love with this record. She still has her classic sound, the same quirky lyrics, her beautiful verstile voice, and the amazing piano-playing. There's not a song deserving of less than 4 stars out of 5 on this album. While I love every song, I would recommend finding an older version of "Samson" for those who don't already have one. The version on Begin to Hope sounds slightly rushed, whereas the older one is more raw and mellow. Overall, though, this album is a winner. It's worth your money, and more.

Love song to my Wife

Came across this strange song Fidelity late one night while browsing Itunes Stores, halfway through the song I just welled up in tears of love for my wife. Now I am a 48 year old lawyer not prone to singing love songs, but I just got so enthralled with the song and then the video that I started singing out loud which alarmed my wife since my rendition of this song is scary at best. But once she realized I was just singing she listened to the song and just turned to me and said she loved me !!! Now that is some song and this is one fantastic album filled with real emotion and insight. On the Radio, Better, Summer in the City, Chemo Limo, Building from the other album Love it all !!!

Biography

Born: February 19, 1980 in Moscow, Russia

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

A veteran of New York's anti-folk scene, songwriter Regina Spektor makes quirky, highly eclectic, but always personal music. Born and raised in Moscow until age nine, Spektor listened to her father's bootleg tapes of Western pop and rock as a young child and also learned to play piano. She and her family moved from Russia to the Bronx, where she was immersed in American culture (at the time, hers was the first Russian family in the borough in 20 years). Eventually, Spektor and her family became part...
Full Bio
Begin to Hope, Regina Spektor
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