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Begin to Hope

4.5 out of 5 stars 244 customer reviews

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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.

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The style known as "anti-folk," as realized by practitioners like Ani DiFranco and Billy Bragg, is derived from a punk aesthetic, and thus tends to be spare and confrontational. But while Regina Spektor's music is anti-folk in the way it subverts the traditional coffeehouse vibe, it's less interested in rebellion and more concerned with the joy of eccentricity, melody and surprise. Begin To Hope is full of surprises, and like her promising major label debut Soviet Kitsch, it displays an easy facility with song structure that enables her to go in different--sometimes wildly off-the-wall--directions without sounding scattered. Classically trained on the piano, she's been compared to Tori Amos, but her music isn't as delicate or precious. Fiona Apple comes up as well, but just because neither fits in the usual female singer/songwriter cookie cutter mold doesn't mean they sound the same. Her voice is actually the primary attraction, cracking and loopy on would-be lullabies like "On The Radio" and "Field Below," then punchy and cute on "Hotel Room." But the music, if understated in the mix next to her vocals, makes an impression as well, breaking in with twisty piano arpeggios ("20 Years of Snow") and occasional touches of electronica. It's a consistently intelligent and daring record, yet remains enormously listenable--a neat trick for anti-folk, or any other genre of music for that matter. –Matthew Cooke
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 13, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sire
  • ASIN: B000FFJ80I
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (244 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,497 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Marion VINE VOICE on January 30, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Audio CD
This is simply a beautiful album, beautiful music, soothing, clever execution throughout. It ends on one of the most beautiful notes I've ever heard- Summer in the City and on up it crackles, sparks, wreaks, and explodes with a creativity of an artist at her best. What ridiculous labels: anti-folk, anti-pop, something to feed bad critics with--yes, Regina sounds a bit like Fiona sometimes (That Time) and is as adept with the keys and weirdness as Tori, but what she outshines both of these artists with is a vitality and energy that both of these self-conscious super stars have been lacking lately.

If Begin to Hope sounds a bit more commercial than her previous efforts, it's only because Regina has access to more musical colors and gets to explore her incredible musical vision on a bigger canvas.

Regina Spektor is plain and simply the best at what she does.
6 stars.

Author of:
A Bottle of Rain
Nowhere Near the Sea of Cortez
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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