Regina Spektor seems quite a divisive artist, as most ‘quirky’ singers tend to be. You either love her or find her intensely irritating, and reaction to her latest album What We Saw From The Cheap Seats has been fairly typically split down those lines. For those of us who are fans though, it’s another collection of fiercely individual anti-folk songs to cherish.
The album title seems to reference the fact that some of these songs have been around in live form for a while (nothing wrong with that, as Bruce Springsteen‘s most recent album proved) and are only now being committed to studio recordings. Not that Spektor is a big enough star to warrant ‘cheap seats’ at her gigs really, but anyone who goes to them is fortunate indeed, based on my own experiences.
There’s also a re-recording of a track from her Songs album (the one she recorded entirely on a Christmas Day around ten years ago) and that’s one of the singles from it, Don’t Leave Me (Ne me quitte pas). It’s worth pointing out that neither version is a cover of that famous song of the same name, and this jauntier new version is definitely one of the best tracks on What We Saw… and is certainly worthwhile.
The other single so far is another track with more production that most of the rest, All The Rowboats, although in typical Spektor fashion, the special effects used are just her beatboxing in a manner similar to Bjork‘s Medulla album. She uses vocal effects to even stranger effect in Open, which veers a little too close to the ‘too weird for its own good’, and would probably have worked better without the additional, erm, noises
Sometimes Regina Spektor is her own worst enemy in that sense, and she can at her very best when stripping everything down to just her voice and her piano, as she does so incredibly effectively on How. It’s a quietly epic song, full of emotion and passion and intensity. What We Saw From The Cheap Seats works well as a blend of moments like this with slightly more experimental touches, but nothing that should put anyone off what is another excellent release from a unique talent.
They say that you should never see how either sausages or laws get made, because the process is too disgusting to make them palatable afterwards. Sometimes albums can be like that, and quotes from members of Sigur Rós have suggested that Valtari was not an easy record to make. But did it turn into a tasty sausage or a floppy cinema hot dog?