The traditional narrative around Regina Spektor is a pretty severe-sounding one, retelling how her and her parents fled to America from the USSR in 1989. Fair enough – it’s an interesting back story – but speaking to her on the phone from Los Angeles, rather than coming off like some po-faced Soviet archetype, Spektor sounds about as all-American as apple pie. Utterances are peppered with enough soft-voiced “likes,” “ums” and “y’knows” to totally belie somebody who is an intellectual, classically trained multi-instrumentalist and a Russian émigré to boot.
Now residing in New York City, fifteen years into her career and Spektor sounds as infectiously enthusiastic as a bright-eyed songwriter about to release her debut album. In fact, this month, the 36-year-old is back with her seventh LP and first in four years, ‘Remember Us to Life’, the follow up to ‘What We Saw from the Cheap Seats’ from 2012. Her past couple of records have shot straight into the top 3 of the Billboard 200 and the new album is unlikely to buck the trend. Certainly there’s definitely an ‘event’ feel to the release, with security so tight that I only end up with a copy 24 hours before Spektor and I are due to speak.
It’s worth the wait, of course. Across 11 tracks (and 14 for the deluxe version), Spektor treats us to full-scale orchestral productions of baroque pop that swirl around her characteristically fanciful and neatly-weaved tales. Although Spektor is no diarist with her lyrics – preferring instead to relate her experiences through stories and imaginative characterisation – that album title is no whim. ‘Remember Us to Life’ broadly centres on Spektor’s emotional conflict in coping with the loss of loved ones over the previous few years, all the while bringing up her first child (a son, born in 2014) and enjoying her marriage to musician Jack Dishel (the pair wed in 2011).
The new LP is also something of a departure for Spektor in that she harnesses her voice’s fantastic range purely for the purpose of singing, as opposed to using it as more of a percussive instrument on albums of the past. This time Spektor also largely does away with electronic influences other than opener ‘Bleeding Heart’, preferring instead a mix of organic pop, jazz and classical instrumentation. Equally though, this is no easy listening affair; rather, coupled with Spektor’s melancholy lyrics, ‘Remember Us to Life’ is a truly affecting listen from the first note to the last.