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Suppose I kept on singing love songs just to break my own fall - 3.5 stars
on June 13, 2006
Regina Spektor returns not with a bang, but with a whimper - a pop-oriented, radio-friendly, overly-synthesized, oh-my-god-where-is-the-piano whimper. Someone obviously wanted to nudge the new single "Better" onto mainstream radio stations, with its whining guitars and friendly vocals. But though BEGIN TO HOPE is a whimper, it remains a whimper full of heart, like everything else Ms. Spektor has done to date.
Following an act like 2004's SOVIET KITSCH is tough to do, I'll admit. And don't get me wrong, I'm happy that she's tried a new direction. But it's like now we have two Regina Spektors - the one on the indie side of the spectrum with beautiful songs like "The Flowers" and "Just Like The Movies," and the one you might expect to hear after the Pussycat Dolls' "Stickwitu" fades thankfully out of your car stereo. Even the lyrics somehow pack less oomph ("I never loved nobody fully, always one foot on the ground / And by protecting my heart truly I got lost in the sound"), whereas before I would find myself smiling and nodding in agreement when listening to lyrics like, "Man, I have a terrible feeling / That something's gone awful very wrong with the world / Was it something we made? / Was it something we ate? / Was it something we drank?"
But it's just hard for me to dislike this too much; after all, it IS Regina Spektor, and if there's one thing you can say about her it's that she's managed to conjure up such an eerily loyal fan base that I really don't feature her losing many fans over this. Now, I've looked around communities and poked my head into threads, I've heard fans complaining over "Fidelity" and "Better" ad nauseam, but what people are forgetting is her beautiful voice, the spirit and energy she has that worms its way into every note of every song, and evidently, her decision not to creatively jog in place with her music - which is wonderful, it truly is. I can't tell you how much flack new releases in the past couple years have received, as fans bellyache, "They sound the same! They sound the same! Everyone, grab the pitchforks and the torches and suit up!"
The beauty in songs like "Apres Moi," "Field Below" and "Samson" (a faster remake of an old song which got fans howling) are there, don't fool yourself. This is still Regina, but if she was antifolk before, she's antipop now. She's injected just enough of her signature sound into songs like "On the Radio" and "Hotel Song" to make them her own. Whatever your senses are telling you, please pick this up; for devoted fans it is worth a listen indefinitely, and the special edition has five bonus tracks chock-full of all the piano you sorely miss on the original twelve tracks.
To summarize, it's good. But I'm gonna begin to hope for something better next time around.