Regina Spektor?s last album, 2004?s Soviet Kitsch, garnered praise from Time, Rolling Stone, Spin, Vanity Fair, The New York Times and many others. But this Russian-born, Bronx-bred singer-songwriter-pianist, who emerged f... more »rom the NYC café circuit, continues to expand her vision. On Begin To Hope, produced by David Kahne (The Strokes, Sublime, Sugar Ray), she broadens here palette with electric guitar, drum machines and seductive electronic loops, finding new canvases for her provocative vocal style. Hope for pop has arrived with Regina Spektor.« less
Regina Spektor?s last album, 2004?s Soviet Kitsch, garnered praise from Time, Rolling Stone, Spin, Vanity Fair, The New York Times and many others. But this Russian-born, Bronx-bred singer-songwriter-pianist, who emerged from the NYC café circuit, continues to expand her vision. On Begin To Hope, produced by David Kahne (The Strokes, Sublime, Sugar Ray), she broadens here palette with electric guitar, drum machines and seductive electronic loops, finding new canvases for her provocative vocal style. Hope for pop has arrived with Regina Spektor.
Cameron Ashley H. from LACEY, WA Reviewed on 2/28/2007...
I wasn't sure what to expect with this one--I had listened to a review about her..but I loved it. Very different..and fun. I could play it 4 times in a row and still work around the house.
0 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
There's still hope
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 06/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In her previous three albums, Regina Spektor specialized in quirky anti-folk. Piano, odd melodies and poetic lyrics.
But Spektor tries a new sound in her long-awaited fourth album, "Begin to Hope." Instead of anti-folk, her music here is more polished and poppier... or perhaps it's anti-pop. Either way, while this album has its middling moments, most of the songs are still Regina Spektor at her best.
It kicks off with the oddball "Fidelity," a trilling little song with the piano edged in synth. Spektor doesn't fare quite as well in the second one, which sounds too generic for her talents -- guitar pop with only a dash of piano, and only a few of her vocal flourishes.
But then the album changes, as if Spektor feels she's done enough "typical" pop. Instead she switches to the soft-edged piano melody of "Samson" ("You are my sweetest downfall"), followed by a strong string of songs that stick to her strengths: piano anti-folk (or anti-pop), and songs that don't sound like anything "On the Radio."
Instead she leans on soft piano ballads, silky piano folk and jagged little rock songs. Songs like "Edit" and "20 Years of Snow" are pure Spektor, with the cascading piano melody and the quirky singing, while "That Time" is a strange, mocking little rocker about reading Shakespeare and burying bits of a cat's body. The finale is a quiet, meditative song about loneliness in the city, and missing the one you love. For anyone who misses a lover, this will be a heart-tugger.
And the special edition has a bonus EP, perhaps for fans who adore her quirkier side. There are the bittersweet piano ballads like "Another Town" ("my soul feels so old!"), the bittersweet "Baobabs" and "Dusseldorf." And then there is quirk supreme: "Uhmerica," which has her uttering an explosive grunt through the chorus, and the kinetic weirdness of "Music Box."
Yes, the cry is that Spektor has gone commercial -- there's more guitar on this album, and little washes of synth. But the heart of her music has always been the piano, odd melodies and unusual singing -- and though this is a bit more polished than her prior work, the brilliance is still there.
And remember, the music is what we came here to hear. Once you get past the lackluster second song, Spektor's piano music is back -- she can do it slow and soft, or fast and jagged. And she's backed by some solid enough drums that get to go wild in "Hotel Song." And what about the synth? It bobbles along in the background... and actually enhances the piano.
Spektor's offbeat voice is just as versatile as her piano -- she sounds sweet in the ballads, quirky in the faster songs. She rattles off the strangely written songs ("the words float out like holograms") as she sings of loneliness, love and eating tangerines. "Be afraid of the cold/They'll inherit your blood/Apres moi, le deluge/After me comes the flood..." she croons.
Regina Spektor had a lot to live up to after the brilliance of "Soviet Kitsch," and for the most part she does. A bittersweet gem of anti-folk... and anti-pop."
Funky, Cool & Fun
Marion | Louisiana | 01/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't buy many CD's but I saw Regina Spektor on a morning news show recently and was mesmerized by her voice, her life and her poetry/lyrics. I tried to resist, but finally gave in and purchased this CD.
I was not disappointed! I like every song on it. It's so rare to hear a truly original soul anymore who isn't prepackaged and tied with a pretty bow by media mogols, but this CD is NOT your average music. It's funky, cool, fun and unique. Her voice is as much an instrument as her piano and she plays it with abandon.
If you march to the beat of a different drummer, you will LOVE Regina's music. I can't wait to hear more."
Sweet voice, beautiful piano, great recording!
K. Sullivan | Virginia - United States | 01/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I now realize that Regina Spektor is not new to the music scene, but she is new to me. I am thrilled to have discovered her! "Begin to Hope" is a tremendous album.
Thanks to VH1 for playing "Fidelity" practically every morning. For a week or so I tuned in just hoping to see her video. I finally decided I had to try her ablum relatively sound unheard. Taking that chance was a great decision.
First, in my opinion, Regina has the sweetest voice you will ever hear. I could listen to it all day and not tire of it. Second, add to that her piano playing, and you have a very powerful combination. She sings and plays with such flair and artistry. She is extremely talented (all this and cute, too).
She makes use of varying styles: folk, classical, pop, and even hints of soul, blues, and jazz. And she does it all meticulously and beautifully. The instrumentation is generally sparse, her voice and piano are featured, while some songs are "fuller" than others. The mood ranges from fun to reflective. She impresses me as being intelligent and witty with her creative use of voice and piano. The lyrics are thoughtful, poignant even.
Certainly this CD isn't for everyone. There is no headbanging or club dancing. But if you have a taste for non-rhythm driven music, this recording is fabulous. For the right taste, this album positively hits the spot. Highly recommended!"
Regina reaches for a wider audience without sacrificing her
Michael Moricz | Astoria NY | 09/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This seems to be the Regina Spektor album which is finally bringing her to a more accessible or palatable place with general audiences, and it couldn't happen to a more deserving artist.
For my tastes, Regina is one of the most original and creative artists in the singer-songwriter world, and the quality of the work has been uniformly fierce and satisfying since she first appeared on the scene with indie releases and local NYC appearances. Now she is becoming a certifiable minor phenomenon, with 5 CDs out and a growing European and American following.
I was prepared to be resistant to this CD since it definitely leans a tiny bit more toward the commercially accessible side, but this has been done without any sacrifice to the essential quirkiness and individuality that Regina seems to so effortlessly exude. There is noticeably more studio "polish" to the production, though surprisingly less acoustic instruments than on SOVIET KITSCH (the wonderful string playing which illuminated certain songs on that previous album is conspicously absent here, though the ghost of a violinist seems to be audible briefly in "20 Years of Snow").
Some of these songs were already very familiar to Regina fans, as she's been performing most of them live for quite some time. One, "Samson," was on a previous album, but she's done it here at a slightly faster tempo, and with the additional emotional element of synth strings.
BEGIN TO HOPE covers an admirable range of styles, from the relative pop-iness of "On the Radio" and "Better" to an almost Randy-Newman-meets-Paul-Simon gospel influence in the expressive "Field Below." "Apres Moi" contains a hint of the kind of symphonic backdrop Regina would use if the budget permitted, and also is her first song to contain Russian lyrics (apparently adapted from the words of Boris Pasternak).
"That Time" has a devastatingly haunting lyric over an almost punk-like guitar driven simplicity (unusual for this largely piano-based performer). "Lady" revisits the jazz influences which were more prevalant on her first album a few years back. "20 Years of Snow" paints a portrait of a vulnerable and skittish young woman that rivals the most poignant feminist work of a Tori Amos or Ani DiFranco.
There is sadness here, and joy, emotional honesty and humor. Every song is worthwhile. This will be one of those albums (like Imogen Heap's I MEGAPHONE, for instance) during which you needn't skip any tracks.
Though I'm not sure if it's still available, I should point out that the extended edition of the CD (with 5 additional b-sides on a second CD) raises the stakes even higher. In my opinion, some of the best (and certainly quirkiest) material on the album is on that second CD, which is piano-only, including "Baobabs," "Dusseldorf," "Music Box," and the somewhat controversial "Uh-Merica" which is usually an audience-participation song when performed live.
One oddity which must surely be intentional: the song "Dusseldorf" contains the lyric "soviet kitsch," but was not on that album and rather appears on this subsequent album. Similarly, Regina has an exquisitely beautiful song called "Begin to Hope" which, almost ironically, is not on the "Begin to Hope" album. I have to assume that it will appear on the next album, and perhaps she'll carry forward a little in-joke where the title of the current album is taken from a lyric which won't appear until the next album.
I could get more specific about this or that song, but it seems needless. Regina is a real genius, and a by-product of her uncompromising individuality has been that a lot of people heard some of her previous material and were kind of scared off by the intensity and individuality of what she does, finding it too weird or (as one friend of mine said)"scary." But with BEGIN TO HOPE she has made a CD that is more likely to win the hearts and minds of people who have not yet embraced her than any single previous albums.
I still overall prefer the SONGS CD (or the British GRAVEDIGGERS compilation) as the finest single collection of material on one CD -- either one of those CDs is surfeited with an astonishing variety and creativity. And I prefer some of the bargain-basement ambitions of SOVIET KITSCH (especially the string quartet or the overwhelming poignancy of the cello in "Ode to Divorce").
But I believe this album is going to convert a lot of people, especially with the success of "On the Radio" and now "Fidelity," and unlike someone like Jonatha Brooke, Regina doesn't seem to be losing the essence of her individual indie spirit just because she is becoming a more commercially viable artist. Congratulations to her on all her success, because she's really in a class by herself -- she's like a female Russian Bob Dylan, not for everyone but fiercely genuine and of enormous value to the culture."