Regina Spektor: What We Saw From The Cheap Seats

What We Saw From The Cheap Seats is Russian-American singer-songwriter Regina Spektor’s latest release. I’ve been chewing on this album for a long time and I still have frustratingly mixed emotions about its eccentricities. Most of it is sheer, breathtaking brilliance. I especially love the cinematic, piano pop opener “Small Town Moon” – seriously, even if you don’t buy the album, you must download this fantastic song. You can stream it and watch the video below.

there’s a small town in my mind
how can I leave without hurting every one that made me?
how can I leave without hurting every one that made me?
oh, baby, baby it’s all about the moon
I wish you wouldn’t have broke my camera
’cause we’re gonna get real old real soon
today we’re younger than we ever gonna be

Other noteworthy tracks are the buoyant, bilingual ditty “Don t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” and “Rowboats,” which is a cleverly conceived masterpiece about masterpieces.

first there’s lights out, then there’s lock up,
masterpieces serving maximum sentences
it’s their own fault for being timeless
there’s a price to pay, and a consequence
all the galleries and museums, they will stay there forever and a day
all the rowboats in the oil paintings
they keep trying to row away, row away

The album also features some truly exquisite ballads, including the gorgeous, wistful simplicity of “Firewood,” the oh-so-pretty and sweet love song “The Party” and “How,” which could easily be a classic soul song.

the piano is not firewood yet
they try to remember but still they forget
that the heart beats in threes, just like a waltz
and nothing can stop you from dancing
rise from your cold hospital bed
you’re not dying

Unfortunately, there are experimental elements in other tracks I personally find very irksome. The entire pseudo-Italian gangster anthem “Oh Marcello” really, really gets on my nerves and the otherwise lovely “Open” is absolutely ruined by the gasping, choking noises that punctuate the second half of the song. Every single time I’ve listened to the album, I go from thinking “Wow, why haven’t I reviewed this yet? This’ll be my #1 of the year!” to “What was she thinking? It sounds like she recorded something dying.”

Of course, I’ve felt this conflict with most of Regina’s post-Songs work. It seems the success of Soviet Kitsch made her so self-aware of her own quirkiness that she sometimes takes it too far to be enjoyable. I respect Regina’s experimentation, but it makes for a jarring listening experience. Especially when randomly thrown in to what is otherwise a very beautiful collection. Such is art, I suppose. I respect the haphazard artistic technique of a Jackson Pollock, but I’d much rather look at a Van Gogh.

you’re like a party somebody threw me
you taste like birthday, you look like New Years
you’re like a big parade through town
you leave such a mess but you’re so fun

The spectacular far, far outweighs the bad here, so I still love the album and I highly recommend it for Regina’s lyrical wit and wisdom alone. What We Saw From The Cheap Seats will be pushing another artist off my year end list – coming soon!



What We Saw from the Cheap Seats - Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor Official Site

Contest: Win Joshua Bell’s New CD!

Contest Closed

Muruch is giving away Joshua Bell’s new CD At Home With Friends, which features collaborations with Regina Spektor, Sting, Chris Botti, Kristin Chenoweth, Josh Groban, Tiempo Libre, and many more. See contest details below.

The Prize:

One U.S. winner will receive:
1 copy of Joshua Bell’s new CD At Home With Friends.

The Rules:

Comment to this entry with “Joshua Bell” and your email address. All new comments are moderated to avoid spam (which is why you must include the name of the artist in your comment), so it may take a day for your comment to appear if you haven’t commented on Muruch before.

Note: This contest is only open to U.S. residents, and all contestants must enter with a valid email address and the name of the artist in order to qualify. The winner of the contest will also be required to provide me with their full name and postal address for shipping purposes.

The Deadline:

The contest will end on Friday, October 30th. The winner will be chosen at random and contacted via email.

Go now go! And tell others.

Album Review

Buy @ Amazon

Joshua Bell: At Home With Friends

At Home With Friends is the new collection of instrumental and vocal duets by Grammy winning violinist Joshua Bell, who is joined by an eclectic mix of guest musicians and singers. Among Bell’s collaborators are Sting, Regina Spektor, Kristin Chenoweth, Josh Groban, Chris Botti, and Tiempo Libre. The album will be released on September 29th.

The covers that Bell selected for At Home With Friends are as varied as its performers, beginning with a tender rendition of “I Loves You Porgy.” The sweet strings of Bell’s violin blend beautifully with the lonely jazz of Botti’s trumpet on the Porgy and Bess ballad.

Sting lends his voice to the sixteenth century love song “Come Again,” a version of which appeared on Sting’s The Journey & The Labyrinth. I preferred the simpler lute rendition on Sting’s album, but Bell’s arrangement is also very pretty.

Josh Groban’s voice makes a good companion for Bell’s violin in the theme from “Cinema Paradiso.” However, it’s my Cuban boys Tiempo Libre who steal the show with “Para Ti.” The song alternates between peppy brass coupled with rhythmic Latin percussion and soft orchestral interludes.

Kristin Chenoweth’s operatic soprano is lovely, but seems an ill fit for “My Funny Valentine.” And while Bell’s instrumentation in “Eleanor Rigby” is flawless, I think the cover would’ve been more effective had he chosen a different singer or recorded it sans vocals. Frankie Moreno’s voice is nice, just not strong enough to tackle this particular Beatles classic. A better choice may have been Nathan Gunn, whose powerful baritone follows in “O, Cease Thy Maiden Fair.”

Thanks to the wonders of technology, you can hear Rachmaninoff himself play piano in “Grieg: Sonata No. 3.” Bandoneon player Carel Kraayenhof joins Bell on two of the album’s instrumental tracks, most notably the theme from “Il Postino.” And Chris Thile’s mandolin gives the elegant melody of “Look Away” a plucky boost.

Unfortunately for me, Regina Spektor’s “Left Hand Song” is missing from the Sony advance. But it will be included in the final cut of the album. Until then, the hauntingly exotic “Variant Moods: Duet for Sitar & Violin” makes up for its absence. Written by Ravi Shankar, the piece features his daughter Anoushka.

I personally prefer Bell’s classical works – such as his previous release Vivaldi: The Four Seasons – but it is refreshing to hear him experiment with style and play with such a diverse group of musicians.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3 and there are no audio samples available online yet, but there should be streams added at the links below before the release date.

Joshua Bell Official Site

Pre-order @ Amazon