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October 23, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: ‘Remember Us to Life’ accents Spektor’s vocal skills

Regina Spektor

"Remember Us to Life"

Over the course of the past 15 years since her first album “11:11,” Regina Spektor has become known for her ability to tell whimsical stories through music. Her seventh studio album, “Remember Us to Life,” is yet another example of her incredible writing ability. The album, released Sept. 30, strikes the perfect balance between unconventionality and catchy pop appeal. Spektor visited Ithaca and performed at the State Theatre at 7 p.m. Oct. 14.

The album begins with a catchy single, “Bleeding Heart.” Despite the song’s light and peppy feel, the lyrics discuss what it feels like to be an outcast. The chorus rhythmically repeats, “Never never mind your bleeding heart” in a simple but poignant declaration that describes what it is like to feel invisible and ignored. Spektor seems to exhibit empathetic wisdom on this track, as if speaking from personal experience. She sings, “Someday you’ll grow up/ And then you’ll forget/ All the pain you endured/ Until you walk past a sad pair of eyes/ And up will come back all the hurt.” As these lyrics seem to take a pessimistic turn, Spektor’s writing describes how one person’s negativity can affect others.

“Bleeding Heart” is lyrically and dynamically interesting. It begins with airy synths and sustains its levity until the end, when drums and heavy guitar come in and Spektor repeats the chorus with more angst. Spektor’s method of manipulating the dynamics and moods of her songs, whether content or unsettled, gives them a playful feel and demonstrates her technical musical prowess.

The third track on the album, “Grand Hotel,” takes on more of a ballad feel compared to the two that precede it. Its piano-heavy instrumentation and mystical lyrics tell the story of a tunnel to hell that resides below a fancy hotel. Each of the verses reveals more about the demons that come up and visit the hotel, humanizing them in a fantastical and humorous way. Spektor’s lyrics are such that the listener has to truly pay attention to them in order to understand their symbolic and narrative importance. “Grand Hotel” takes on the qualities of a folk song or fable through her clever choice of subject matter that is neither too dark nor too rosy.

The most vocally impressive song on the album is the seventh track, “The Trapper and the Furrier,” in which Spektor’s robust voice echoes through the end of the piece. The song talks about the injustices of the world, as the chorus proclaims, “What a strange, strange world we live in/ Where the good are damned and the wicked forgiven/ What a strange, strange world we live in/ Those who don’t have lose, those who got get given.”  

After the final chorus, Spektor begins repeating the word “more” over piano playing that becomes increasingly chaotic. Spektor’s voice is nearly flawless. She most commonly sings in sweet, quiet tones, but when she powerfully belts out “more,” she increases the intensity of her sound, and the song takes a deeply emotional turn. The listener can truly feel her deep frustration with the ways of the world.

As a whole, “Remember Us to Life” is a brilliant album that stays true to the dynamic writing that made Spektor popular. Unlike other artists, Spektor need not change her style or sound to stay current or gain popularity, as listeners are continuously impressed by her fresh and genuine releases that ooze individuality. Spektor’s songs cannot be recreated or canned worn out. They transcend time and genre. “Remember Us to Life” is both a musical and poetic masterpiece.