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A Moscow-born singer/songwriter, known for her quirky lyrics. She has quite a large range, from earworms to downright depressing ballads. Immigrating with her parents at the age of 9 to New York, something she has sung about, she has since gained a steady ground in the alternative music and anti folk scene.
Soviet Kitsch (2004)
Begin to Hope (2006)
What We Saw From the Cheap Seats (2012)
Her Works Provide Examples Of:
An Immigrant's Tale: "Rockland County" and "8th Floor" both revolve around the immigrant experience - the first is Spektor's most autobiographical song, the second a more general allegory for the Russian-American experience.
Author Appeal: Her love of literature, music, philosophy, and religion are all made evident in her music.
PreviousAlbum Title Drop: "Düsseldorf", a bonus track on the deluxe version of Begin to Hope, features a reference to "Soviet kitsch".
Awesome McCoolname: Not only is Spektor an awesome name (it sounds like it could be a G.I. Joe villain). During her appearance on The Colbert Report, Colbert questioned whether or not she was a Soviet sleeper agent, bringing up her awesome "sexy spy name" as evidence.
Bathos: Epic and beautiful songs will occasionally be peppered with terrible dolphin impressions or beat-boxing that sounds like spitting, and it somehow works.
Berserk Button: Most of Regina's songs are either quirky and adorable or balladic and depressing, but the live-only song "Ink Stains" is her only genuinely angry song, about how she wants to gas Holocaust deniers. It has some uncharacteristically gory imagery ("so who'll be the Jew to make the papers / drenched in blood up to your blue Jew eyeballs") and the song ends with an angry, emotional wail. She's also posted on her Myspace blog about her support for Israel because of how the Jews have been exploited and massacred throughout history.
Big Applesauce: New York is frequently mentioned in her songs, including locations such as the Williamsburg Bridge.
Bilingual Bonus: Both "Après Moi" and "8th Floor" contain untranslated Russian, the former featuring a poem by Boris Pasternak. "Après Moi" has some French (the title references and includes the famous Louis XV quote, "Après moi, le deluge"), as well.
Black Comedy: "That Time" is full of this, from the protagonist having to bury pieces of a bird she was caring for after a cat got it, to her finding her friend overdosing on drugs twice in the same day, only to realize that she's high as a kite herself.
Black Sheep Hit: "Fidelity", the only song of hers to come close to troubling the pop charts, features no piano. While not a bad song, that is her signature thing.
Cryptic Conversation: her appearance on Jenny Owen Youngs's "Voice on Tape" has her speaking on Youngs' answering machine about some Noodle Incident in an adorably Russian-accented voice. A conversation between Regina and her brother Bear appears on "Soviet Kitch" under the cryptic title "* * *".
Dream Team: Her first major tour? With the Strokes and Kings of Leon. Goddamn.
Early Installment Weirdness: Everything before "Begin to Hope". While her recent work is far from normal, her earlier work has much more Mind Screw, Black Comedy, mentions of violence and drugs, among other things, and it can be quite jarring to listen to her newer work and then her older work, or vice versa. She seems to be reverting back to that style though, primarily with "What We Saw From the Cheap Seats" and various performances. For a comparison, compare "Pavlov's Daughter" or "Oedipus" to "Two Birds" or "Better".
Epic Rocking: "Pavlov's Daughter" at nearly 8 minutes long. "Chemo Limo" and "Back of a Truck" are both around 6 minutes, which is still long for her.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: More than two thirds of her catalogue is unavailable on her CDs - the rest exists only as live bootlegs and studio demos that she appears to be fine with, with one exception - her 1999 Demo. Also, her first album, 11:11, is only available as a (legit) digital download.
Songs was also only ever legally available from an online indie music store (which, thankfully, is still going), and her concerts.
Large Ham: Here and there, though Oh Marcello gives us this gem all with an over the top Italian accent.
"Oh I'm outta jello, I'M OUTTA JELLO!"
Lighter and Softer: Begin to Hope and Far lost some of the harder edge found in her older songs. It's a far cry from her 1999 demo tapes, in which she actually used the word "cunt."
And then she wrote "Ink Stains" (Regina Spektor meets Inglourious Basterds) and covered Radiohead's depressing "No Surprises." The darkness is back.
She goes on to discuss how she was herself tripping balls in the hospital waiting room while the other person was overdosing.
Mood Whiplash: While her albums are in general quite eclectic, "Chemo Limo" is in itself a profound example. The verses tell of a single mother of four kids being told she has terminal cancer and are appropriately eerie and mournful. The chorus, however, is a bouncy rapid-fire Motor Mouth-ed sass parade of defiance.
One of Us: Her intelligence and nerdy love of classical literature aside, one particular interlude between songs sticks out. Forgetting her toothbrush on a trip to California, Regina, ever the optimist, reveled in the opportunity to buy a child's toothbrush (as she calls it, "travel sized") featuring Superman. And she dressed as Zorro during a Halloween show.
Our Mermaids Are Different: "Mermaid," as it's a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen tale in an Urban Fantasy setting. She mentions that the painful stabbing feeling in her feet causes her to bleed. She claims to have sold her voice for, among other things, a bottle of gin and a bump of cocaine before the narrative goes completely off the rails.
Really Gets Around: Discussed in "Dance Anthem of The 80's", talking about the promiscuity and sexual liberation of the decade.
Shout-Out: To Tom Waits in "Prisoners" (compare it to his song "9th & Hennipen"), Patti Smith in "Poor Little Rich Boy" with the repeated "so goddamn young", Boris Pasternak in "Après Moi," and about a hundred literary references, from Andersen to Margaret Atwood to Virginia Woolf to Edith Wharton's Ethan Fromm. A darker, more ambiguous one is to the famous antisemitic poet Ezra Pound in a song named either "Ezra Pound" or "If You're Never Sorry." She is the Umberto Eco of pianists.
Villain Song: "Long Brown Hair" is told from the point of view of a rapist justifying a rape by victim blaming.
Don’t tell me what’s proper Anyone can see I wasn’t even her first So don’t blame it on me She was so pretty, as pretty as can be. And I thought, “My god, Why shouldn’t it be me? Oh come on this once, God. Why shouldn’t it be me?”