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Regina Spektor: “Begin To Hope”

James Costa | Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An integral element of growing up is understanding the beautiful and challenging complexities of life. Regina Spektor’s new album, “Begin to Hope,” is an extraordinary insight into one person’s perspective on the curious balance between hope and despair, youth and maturity.

Spektor has had quite the life already, a Russian immigrant to the U.S. with years of classical training on the piano. Most closely aligned with the anti-folk scene thriving in New York City’s East Village, she provides a fresh and rich look into the budding experiences of a young woman in the city blessed with extraordinary talents.

“Begin to Hope” achieves its most profound effect when given a thorough listen. Sure, certain tracks stand out. Some have the beat and the rhythm to earn instant appeal.But as the listener moves through the album as a whole and each song individually, what Spektor is looking to accomplish becomes remarkably clear. She is a woman who’s seen the world and the many levels to the worlds she’s shared with others and within herself.

The opening track, “Fidelity,” is simply amazing. Employing a Dr. Dre-like beat, it’s impossible not to smile at the cleverness of Spektor in creating a song with a hip-hop feel and lyrics more akin to an act like Jewel or Ashlee Simpson. And I’m not saying Regina is at all like Ashlee Simpson, because she’s not.

Spektor is pure and unadulterated talent. She’s smart, and she uses her talents to tell stories that are real, powerful, and often beautifully raw. It’s music for those who share her generation, standing at this precious moment of youth before the onset of age, but old enough to know that a little bit of our innocence is irretrievably gone.

A third of the way through the album, Spektor treats the listener to “On The Radio.” To truly understand and appreciate the song, check out the video on Spektor’s Web site. It’s a rather stunning few minutes, with clever lyrics accentuated by penetrating and imaginative music. She twice references the epic Guns N’ Roses song “November Rain” as she sings, “On the radio / We heard November Rain / The solo’s real long / But it’s a pretty song” and “And on the radio / You hear November Rain / That solo’s awful long / But it’s a good refrain”

It’s tough to tell whether song is a recounting of a single memory, or a dream, or a collection of many different experiences and moments in one striking offering.

This difficulty is part of its wonderful appeal and carries over most of the rest of the album. It can be said that listener never truly knows for sure where Spektor is and so it’s constant game of figuring out and catching up, enjoying the game immensely all the while.

Much in the fashion of artists such as Ryan Adams or Ray LaMontagne, Spektor is excellent at using her voice in virtually every fashion imaginable. Whether it’s a near inaudible whisper of painful remembrance in “That Time’s” or a rousing call in “Samson’s” (“Oh we couldn’t bring the columns down / Yeah we couldn’t destroy a single one / And this history books forgot about us / And the bible didn’t mention us / Not even once”), Spektor has mastered her understanding and employment of the subtle complexities of the voice to most accurately convey the ideas she’s decided to sing about.