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Regina Spektor: “What We Saw From the Cheap Seats”—Album Review

Sire Records (2012)

It’s finally here!

What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, the first album from Regina Spektor in three years, hit the shelves and download sites this week, and upon the first listen, I have to say this is apt to be everything fans hoped it would be—and then some.

Let’s just say I’m one of those fans, and this record is already blowing my mind.

There are basically two things about Regina Spektor that, in my view, make her a great artist, and make her so incredibly popular:

  1. She is original. She doesn’t sound like anyone else.
  2. She is genuine. She doesn’t follow formula; she’s just herself, and she writes and sings about what she wants to.

Add to these two things a touch of quirky humor, and you have a force to be reckoned with.

On What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, Spektor brings out all these elements of her artistry in a way that grabs you from the first few notes of “Small Town Moon” and holds your attention all the way to the end of the last track. Every song is an event on its own: from the silly, faux-Italian accent on “Oh Marcello” to the urgent drama of “All the Rowboats” to the cheekiness of “Ballad of a Politician” to the sentimentality of “How,” this record is Regina Spektor at her finest.

Actually, the range of material on Cheap Seats is so broad that one of the few criticisms circulating about it is that it’s “all over the board,” that it lacks cohesion. I disagree with this entirely. The people who are saying this are missing the key element that draws all these songs together: Regina Spektor herself. These songs help describe and define who she is as an artist, and to limit the content would be to limit her artistry. I can definitely see how this diversity of material could hurt some other artists, but I don’t see it hurting Spektor at all—at least not in the eyes of her fans. This is who she is, and she’s one of the very few who can get away with this kind of thing.

That said, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats is admittedly not a change in direction for Spektor—but then again, there simply is no need for her to change direction, and I think she knows that isn’t what her fans would want. With this collection of songs, Regina Spektor proves that she can continue to surprise and delight us simply by continuing to be who she is. Cheap Seats represents some of her best work so far, and was well worth waiting for.

ALBUM RATING: Five Stars (out of five)


(NOTE: If you want a sneak peak of the record, NPR.org is currently streaming the entire album for free. Click here to take a listen.)

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About the Author


Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Kim Phelps found her inspiration and love for music listening to local bands play in the coffeehouses around town. She soon found her own voice as a singer-songwriter, and eventually began playing her own gigs in the coffee shops. Her personal influences include Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls, Ingrid Michaelson and Cat Power, but as an indie musician herself, she has an affinity for any band or artist who pursues creative freedom on the outskirts of the music industry. As our Indie correspondent, Kim makes a point of highlighting up-and-coming independent acts who are creating a buzz and building an audience. When she's not blogging for us or playing in the coffee shops, Kim works as a barista herself to help pay the bills. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington.

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Posted in: Featured, Indie/Alternative Music


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