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Regina Spektor


Country of origin:

From Russia now in the U.S.

Type of music generally:

Quirky, evocative/eclectic. Often beautiful & fierce, sometimes bluesy.

Status:

Most recent release, Live on Soundstage (live CD/DVD, 2017), most recent studio release, Remember Us To Life (2016)

See also:

Regina's cyber world

Wikipedia's entry on Regina Spektor

Comparisons:

Fiona Apple crossed with Patti Smith. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)

Regina Spektor :) (damon)

Covers/own material:

Own, very occasional covers, mostly references inside her own songs

General comments:

Smart, quirky, insightful, fun, emotive, great delivery. What more could you want? See my comments on her album songs for more detail.... (damon)

She uses words as soundscapes really, and has Joni Mitchell-esque moments and the voice. Her work is kinda like an odd marriage of Patti Smith through a early Joni Mitchell musical filter. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)

Her songwriting is really amazing—she tell stories with a sense of humour about life, which reminds me a lot of Joni Mitchell. Though I can't really imagine Joni Mitchell singing about the glories of a dill pickle, I can imagine her singing some of the slightly humourous looks at relationships and if Tori Amos had a more classical bent I could imagine her singing such songs allusive, chaotic, powerful, and wonderful songs as "Samson" and "Oedipus". (Neile)

Comments about live performance:

Live Regina Spekto is just as fun, witty, silly, profound, and delightful to listen to as you would imagine from her studio recordings. Do not miss her if she's appearing anywhere near you. (Neile)

Recommended first album:

Since Songs isn't available anymore, try begin to hope or Soviet Kitsch

Recordings:


11:11

Release info:

2001—self-released

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Regina Spektor—piano, vocals

Produced by:

Richie Castellano

Comments:

This is a delightful album, and I really enjoy it. Unfortunately, on first listen it sounds similar to Fiona Apple's first album, Tidal. They're both just coming from the same jazzy, bluesy, piano-based place, and it's too bad that many people won't be able to hear past that resemblance to appreciate this album, as it deserves to be heard on its own merits without being overshadowed by the superficial stylistic similarities between the two albums. Regina Spektor is a fine, wholly individual, slightly comic (certainly wry) songwriter and an expressive singer, and that shows on this collection if you give it more than a superficial listen. The witty lyrics (and of course her performance of them) are really worth paying attention to. (Neile)


Songs

Release info:

2002—self-released

Availability:

Out of print

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Regina Spektor—piano, vocals

Produced by:

Joe Mendelson

Comments:

If i had to pick a single favourite discovery of 2002, this would probably be it. (But, i hope no one will ever force me to choose!)
     The opening love song/lament, "Samson", always makes me want to cry, and that's a fairly rare effect with me so when it happens i sit up and take notice. Follow it with an eminently singable/whistleable track, and (bearing in mind that while this is going on, already the word 'quirky' is bouncing around in my head) i'm fully hooked. Basically, i'm pretty much convinced Regina Spektor woke up one morning and said to herself "I think i'll create an album that will make Damon ecstatically happy," and then she did. Good thing for her i'm not the stalking type. I mean, this is someone who can (and does!) read the list of ingredients on a pickle jar and make it interesting.
     Now, gushing aside: this probably isn't for everyone, and in fact i've heard negative reactions from at least one friend (shocking!) and seen a neutral response (equally shocking!) in at least one case. If i look at it objectively, i have to say that occasionally her metaphors get a bit strained, and you can tell that she's still finding her feet as a singer/songwriter; there's a 'youngness' about it that might bother some.
     Regina sings and plays piano, and that's all you'll find here as far as instruments go. Her piano work is lovely and spare; at times haunting, sometimes staccato and fun, but never overtly complex or particularly front and centre. Her voice is nice but not outstanding, and it doesn't have to be; it fits her material like a glove, or perhaps vice versa. Her singing is not 'polished' in any way; it's quite straightforward, no attempts to hide pauses for breath, nothing too fancy (except perhaps the 'singing raspberry' on one song). In other words, this isn't an album you listen to strictly for the music. Though i'll hasten to add that i find it very ear-pleasing even just on this level, and i think the voice, music, and singing style all do an excellent job of supporting the core of her material.
     Now the interesting part: Regina has a wonderful ability to tell stories. She makes insightful and sometimes heavy observations without ever coming across as taking her own message or herself too seriously. Her words can be oblique and sly, sometimes bordering on obfuscated but never falling into obscurity for its own sake; if you listen well she's always got a message. In addition to making you think, she also knows how to make you feel—her singing is very expressive and can reach in and grab your heart sometimes—and she uses that ability to great advantage and in the right places. And of course she also knows when to just have fun, with some songs and moments that are laugh-out-loud funny. She mixes all the foregoing very well, and In my opinion her delivery is generally spot on and combines with the simple instrumentation to give the album as a whole a very intimate feeling, kind of like a house concert i suppose. In fact the whole thing (and more, apparently, that didn't make it onto the disc) was recorded in one day and the insert says "When you are listening to this little disk [sic], try to think that you are in on a secret..."—it fits.
     A few favourites: "Samson" is probably the most haunting song on here; a beautiful love song and lament which seems like an 'alternate history' bible story. "Aching to Pupate" is a sweet a cappella number about selling butterflies on a street corner in a dingy city—a typically R.S. sort of metaphor. "Daniel Cowman" is a meandering, odd story that's both funny and disturbing at once. "Prisoners" contains the lines "There's nothing wrong with them/That a thousand books can't fix" which is one that sticks in my head. "Pickle" contains the aforementioned ingredients list and makes you have to grin while describing a situation/ambience i'm sure we're all familiar with; another classic line: "Tried to head in the general direction of the bathroom door, the truest room...in the whole damn house." "Lacrimosa" gets positively operatic. And i could go on; every track on here is a gem in its own right.
     Regina Spektor has much to say and she packs a lot of it into this album. Personally i can't wait to hear what she does next. And yes, damnit, she is very, very quirky. I like that. (damon)

Damon captures the feeling of this album well. It's a gem of an album and the songwriting is outstanding and quirky, and...what damon said. Just as a note, the first probably 20 times I played this disc I couldn't get past the first two songs without hitting the repeat button. That's not that the rest of the disc isn't wonderful, but it's that those first two tracks stopped me and I just had to hear them again—and again and again. songs is just her and her piano and it's stupendous. Amazing, fascinating songwriting. Highly, highly recommended. (Neile)


Soviet Kitsch

Release info:

2003—self-released; 2004—Shoplifter Records (U.K.); 2004—Sire Records

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Regina Spektor—piano, rhodes, sticks, percussion, whispers, vocals

Guest artists:

Jane Scarpantoni—cello
Alan Bezozi—heart, drums, percussion
Oren Bloedow—guitar
Graham Maby—bass
The 4X4 Quartet—strings
Gordon Raphael—percussion
Bear Spektor—whispers
Kill Kenada—punk band

Produced by:

Gordon Raphael and Alan Bezozi, co-produced by Regina Spektor

Comments:

soviet kitsch is great. like her previous records its got the quirky, irresistible vibe. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)

This is a brilliant, highly original album. It sounds as though this is going to get a highly deserved wider release. Regina Spektor is such a powerful, expressive singer and songwriter that I find her music just irresistable. This album is a gem. The songs range from the exuberant "Us" to the blunt and funny "Sailor Song" to the punky "Your Honor" to the heartbreaking "Chemo Limo". Amazing.
     The limited edition version of this disc inludes "The Surivival Guide to Soviet Kitsch EPK" and the "Us" video in DVD Region 1 format. (Neile)


Live At Bull Moose EP

Release info:

2005—Site—49459-2

Availability:

Limited

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Regina Spektor fans

Group members:

Regina Spektor—piano, vocals

Comments:

Unfortunately, this doesn't quite capture the magic of seeing her live. It's a fine collection of her songs, and shows a fairly wide range of her talents for the limit number of tracks (five), but still, I found her much more engaging live than comes across here. (Neile)

Mary Ann meets the Gravediggers and other short stories

Release info:

2005—Sire Records—9362494782

Availability:

U.K.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Regina Spektor—piano, drum stick, percussion, martini glass, vocals

Guest artists:

Gordon Raphael—percussion (4)
Alan Bezazi—drums, percussion (4)
Graham Maby—bass (4)
Chris Kuffner—bass (5, 10), percussion (10)
4/4 Quartet—strings (12)

Produced by:

Three tracks produced by Gordon Raphael, Alan Bezozi, Regina Spektor

Comments:

This is a great compilation of her early work for those who want a taste of where she's coming from. It has tracks from all her previous discs and includes some of her most highly engaging songs. We have these tracks elsewhere, but I still enjoy playing this collection of them, and the Gorey-esque booklet illustrations are worth the price of admission in and of themselves.
     The limited edition version of this disc inludes "The Surivival Guide to Soviet Kitsch EPK" and the "Us" video in DVD Region 2 format. (Neile)

Us (single)

Release info:

2005—Sire Records/Trangressive—TRANS018CD/543915785 2

Availability:

U.K.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Regina Spektor—piano, vocals

Guest artists:

4/4 Quartet—strings

Produced by:

Gordon Raphael, Alan Bezozi, Regina Spektor

Comments:

One of the lines in "Us" says "it is contagious" which describes the song well—a great choice for her first U.K. single. The "B" side, "Scarecrow & Fungus", which so far doesn't appear anywhere else, is a typically fun and catchy song. Collectors will find it worth tracking this one down. (Neile)

Begin to Hope

Release info:

2006—Sire Records—44315-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Regina Spektor—piano, vocals

Guest artists:

Nick Valensi—guitar (disc 1 track 2)
David Kahne—bass (disc 1 track 2)
Zhao Gang—er hu (disc 1 track 5)
Ralph U. Williams—saxophone (disc 1 track 11)
Shawn Pelton—drums (disc 1 track 1,2,4,6,7,9)
Rusty Anderson—guitar (disc 2 track 1)

Produced by:

David Kahne, Regina Spektor

Comments:

Luckily, Begin to Hope, Regina Spektor's true major-label debut (Soviet Kitsch was originally self-released) shows respect for what makes her music so special. There's one track, "Better", which is more pop than her usual style, but it's not the kind of pop that makes me want to skip the track—it's just somewhat bouncier than most of her songs (though the lyrics have a typical flair). The album has quite a range—Regina Spektor loves to play with various styles of music. "Samson" is a definite favourite, but it also appears on Songs, and I've been totally stuck on it since I first heard it there; the rest of the album also is full of wry delights. Overall, this is a wonderful, creative album—the first album in ages that I've felt compelled to listen to!
     The limited edition version of this disc includes an additional 5-song ep, which collectors will need to have—they're great tracks. (Neile)

Far

Release info:

2009—Sire Records—519396-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Regina Spektor—vocals, piano, keyboards, David Byrne's installation "Playing the Building," string arrangement on "Laughing With," drums and percussion on "Two Birds"

Guest artists:

Mike Elizondo—bass, upright bass
Matt Chamberlain—drums and percussion
Brad Warnaar—French horn
Jeff Lynne—bass, guitar, 12-string guitar, keyboard (OB-Xa), background vocals
Marc Mann—orchestral programming, keyboard (OB-Xa)
Steve Jay—shaker
Yoed Nir—cello
Dave Price—drums, percussion
Sonia Slany—violin/viola
Jeremy Isaac—violin
Nicholas Holland—cello
Katherine Jenkinson—cello
Jack Dishel (Only Son)—additional vocals on "Human of the Year"
McKenzie Smith—drums
Jacknife Lee—guitars, programming, keys, drums and percussion, bass
Oren Marshall—tuba
Reggie Watts—beatboxing

Produced by:

Mike Elizondo, Regina Spektor, Jeff Lynne, Jacknife Lee, David Kahne

Comments:

Somewhat disappointed with the new Regina Spektor. Loved her previous releases—all of them—but this one doesn't have the same level of hookiness so far. (Neile)

I love this album and listen to it often. Definitely some of the edges are rubbed out, but it's still got enough regina quirkiness for me. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I really enjoy it. It's more produced and not quite as quirky, but let's face it, her early super-quirk would not have played well to mass audiences. (collectedsounds@gmail.com)

There's nothing wrong with this album, as such. In fact, I'm quite willing to accept that it is her best album so far. It is, however, the album that convinced me I would never, ever be a Regina Spektor fan. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)


Live in London

Release info:

2010—Sire Records—525512-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Regina Spektor—vocals, piano, keyboard, guitar

Guest artists:

Dan Cho—cello/band leader
Kaoru Ishibashi—violin
Dave Heilman—drums
Yoed Nir—cello
Elizabeth Myers—viola

Produced by:

David Kahne and Regina Spektor

Comments:

I really enjoy both the CD and DVD in this set. The live versions don't differ that much from the studio versions and there's almost no banter, but I nevertheless find the disc compelling and listen to it fairly often. And I love the country ditty "Love You're a Whore." The DVD is worth watching. The concert footage itself isn't all that interesting, but I like the way non-concert footage is interspersed. And the track list differs from the CD so you get to hear the songs in a different order. (JoAnn Whetsell)

What We Saw From the Cheap Seats

Release info:

2012—Sire Records—530373-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Regina Spektor—vocals, piano, keyboards, marimba

Guest artists:

Aaron Sterling—drums, percussion, marimba
Mike Elizondo—bass, electric guitar, upright bass, programming, acoustic guitars
Jay Bellerose—drums (2, 7, 10), percussion (2, 10), bongos (10)
Danny T. Levin—trumpet (3)
David Moyer—baritone and tenor sax (3)
Jack Dishel—vocals (3, 5)
John Daversa—trumpet (10)

Produced by:

Mike Ellizondo and Regina Spektor

Comments:

A delightful album. If you liked begin to hope and Far you will enjoy this as well. (JoAnn Whetsell)

It's hard to believe that Regina Spektor has been recording songs for over a decade now. Now she sorta comes full circle: the playfulness of 11:11 or Songs is back on this newest installment, combining that with the smoothness we've grown accustomed to by the songs on Far or begin to hope, though only on a per-song basis: songs like "Oh Marcello" or "Don't Leave Me (Ne me quitte pas)" have decidedly a Gravedigger-y feeling while "All the Rowboats" or "Ballad of a Politician" sound more Far-y. Only a few songs like "Small Town Moon" manage to be hybrids of the two eras. (raschee@gmail.com)


Remember Us to Life</H2>

Release info:

2016—Sire—556595-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Regina Spektor—vocals, piano, synth, celeste, string arrangement (1-5, 7, 9)

Guest artists:

Leo Abrahams—synth (1, 4-9); guitar (1-3, 5, 6, 8); programming (1, 3-8); percussion (2); bass (2, 5); strings (4); live processing (9); string arrangement (1-5, 7, 9)
Joey Waronker—drums (1, 2, 5, 8); percussion (3)
Julie Rogers—violins (1, 2, 5, 7, 8)
Songa Lee—violins (1, 2, 5)
Nancy Roth—viola (1, 2, 5)
Judith Hamann—cello (1-3, 5, 7-9)
Jack Dishel—background vocals (1)
Jay Bellerose—percussion (3, 4, 8, 9)
Davide Rossi—violin & viola orchestration and performance (3)
Stella Mozgawa—drums (4, 7)
Mike Elizondo—bass (4); double bass (7, 8)
Andrew Skeet—conducting, string arrangement (10)
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra—orchestra (10)

Produced by:

Leo Abrahams and Regina Spektor

Comments:

I wondered if What We Saw From the Cheap Seats would be the start of the decline of Regina's career, the first of a string of pleasant but largely unmemorable albums. I've seen this happen with a number of artists I love, whose early albums I adore and whose later albums I no longer buy. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. Regina came roaring back with Remember Us to Life, a thoroughly wonderful album from start to finish (even the 3 extra songs on the deluxe edition). Some songs are really catchy ("Bleeding Heart," "Small Bill$"); some are social/political ("The Trapper and the Furrier"), and some are just heartachingly beautiful ("The Light," "Obsolete"). All are worth hearing, again and again. (JoAnn Whetsell)

One of the best albums of the year. (christina_skov@hotmail.com, timjy@sbcglobal.net)


Further info:

Peter Gabriel recorded Regina Spektor's song "Après Moi" for his Scratch My Back album (2010). Regina Spektor recorded the theme song ("You've Got Time") for the Netflix show Orange Is the New Black; it is available as a single. Her songs appear on numerous compilations including:

  • "The Ghost of Corporate Future" on the Weeds, Vol. 2 soundtrack (2006)
  • a live version of "Better"* on Artists Den, Vol. 3: Hudson Street Recordings (2006)
  • "Music Box"** on Attic Jam (2007)
  • a cover of John Lennon's "Real Love"* on Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur (2007)
  • "The Call"* on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian soundtrack and on Disney Box Office Hits (both 2008)
  • a piano and voice version of "Better"*** on Songs for Tibet—The Art of Peace (2008)
  • "Us" and "Hero"** on the (500) Days of Summer soundtrack (2009)
  • a live version of "Ain't No Cover"* on The Bridge School Collection, Vol. 4 (2009)
  • "My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year)"*** on Gift Wrapped—20 Songs That Keep on Giving! (2009)
  • "Better" on My Sister's Keeper soundtrack (2010)
  • "December"* on Gift Wrapped, Vol. II: Snowed In (2010)
  • "On the Radio" on the Beastly soundtrack (2011)
  • "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (Beatles cover)* on the Kubo and the Two Strings soundtrack (2016)
*Track not available on Regina Spektor's own recordings.
**Available on bonus track version of begin to hope
*** Released as a single

Regina Spektor appears with the Strokes on "Modern Girls & Old Fashion Men," the B-side to their "Reptilia" single. The song is also available as a single on its own.

Other collaborations include:

  • "Modern Girls & Old Fashion Men" with the Strokes on their Reptilia single. The song is also available as a single on its own (2004).
  • "Hell No" with Sondre Lerche on the Dan in Real Life soundtrack (2007)
  • "You Don't Know Me" with Ben Folds on his album Way to Normal (2008)
  • "Left Hand Song" with Joshua Bell on his album At Home With Friends (2009)
  • "Call Them Brothers" with Only Son on the album Searchlight (2011)
  • "Dear Theodosia" with Ben Folds on The Hamilton Mixtape (2016)


Thanks to damon and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2017-06-09 01:03:36.
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