Begin to Hope

Begin to Hope

4.6 28
by Regina Spektor
     
 

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Most folks who are familiar with this New York-based singer and multi-instrumentalist probably got their introduction through her association with the Strokes, a band with which she shares little sonic common ground but plenty of single-minded musical passion. Rather than while away the hours in the garage, Spektor seems like the kind of girlSee more details below

Overview

Most folks who are familiar with this New York-based singer and multi-instrumentalist probably got their introduction through her association with the Strokes, a band with which she shares little sonic common ground but plenty of single-minded musical passion. Rather than while away the hours in the garage, Spektor seems like the kind of girl who spends her days looking for a smoky cabaret where the ghosts of Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday hover over the bar -- and on Begin to Hope, she does a pretty swell job of stocking a jukebox ideally suited for such a boîte. Sometimes, as on the jazzy piano ballad "Field Below," she plays things soft and plangent by caressing the listener with the duskier side of her vocal range. That aspect of her voice -- a torch song mastery -- is showcased just as well on "Season," which augments her spare ivory tinkling with a swelling orchestral arrangement. Like any good old-fashioned bohemian, the Russian-born singer doesn't shy away from poking around in the sonic (and psychic) gutter when the mood strikes, and it strikes sharply on tracks like "Better," a knotted blues sure to hit home with Nick Cave aficionados. Every once in a while, Spektor gives in to her flightier side and tries too hard to tweak a simple pop song into an artistic statement. But more often -- as on "Hotel Song," where she flits between scat singing and girl group billing and cooing -- she gets that difficult balance just right.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Heather Phares
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.
Rolling Stone - Jenny Eliscu
1/2 Spektor shows off her gorgeous, fluttery voice, her burgeoning writer chops and her God-given quirks on her second disc.
Boston Globe - Saul Austerlitz
[Spektor] is very much her own delightfully quirky performer. The songs on "Begin to Hope," her second major-label album, after 2004's "Soviet Kitsch," are tough and sharp, emphasizing her surprising delivery.
The Guardian - Caroline Sullivan
There's hardly a moment here that fails to enchant.
Los Angeles Daily News - Rob Lowman
Spektor may take getting used to, but once you do, you'll find she's worth it.
Hartford Courant - Kenneth Partridge
Spektor mostly foregoes earnestness and sentimentality. Instead, she takes a blunt, pragmatic, often humorous look at life and love, singing with a voice that recalls both Joni Mitchell and Norah Jones, only with a slight Russian accent.

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Product Details

Release Date:
06/13/2006
Label:
Sire / London/Rhino
UPC:
0093624411222
catalogNumber:
44112
Rank:
19459

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