REGINA SPEKTOR — What We Saw From the Cheap Seats
THE GOOD: Russian born and Bronx bred singer/songwriter Regina Spektor is back with her sixth.
THE BAD: Spektor has always been a polarizing artist. I’ve always thought of her as a more fun and flirtatious Tori Amos. You either embrace the vocal quirks, genre hopping, and strange storytelling, or you don’t. Cheap Seats won’t change that.
THE NITTY GRITTY: This time, Spektor is only working with one producer — Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Fiona Apple, Pink). But just like 2009’s “multi-producer epic” Far, the new record is all over the musical map. Catchy rhythmic pop tunes like “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” and “All the Rowboats” sit comfortably next to more somber contemplative piano-driven pieces such as “Firewood” and “Open.”
Spektor once again plays the role of master storyteller (often utilizing dramatic accents and lip smacking effects), spinning yarns of anxious expectant mothers, crooked politicians and fantastic street fairs. Just about every song sets itself apart from the pack; even the record’s few lackluster moments leave some sort of impression. So Cheap Seats never feels stagnant; a pleasant surprise waiting around every turn.
BUY IT?: Yes.
BEST COAST — The Only Place
THE GOOD: Indie rock duo Best Coast is back with their second infectious set.
THE BAD: Some of the spontaneity and lo-fi innocence of the band’s first album, 2010’s Crazy for You, is lost. Recorded in Capitol Records’ Studio B, Place finds the pair discovering full fidelity. Not “bad” but definitely challenging for any D.I.Y. purists.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Bethany Cosentino remains in fine voice as she warbles about lost loves, feeling homesick, and even her home state of California (the title cut coming off like a peppy rock anthem for the West Coast tourism board). Bobb Bruno takes on most of the instrumental duties himself.
But we end up with a more polished Best Coast; distortion turned down, riffs and countermelodies more prevalent. It’s an adjustment because some of the duo’s homespun charm is gone. Cosentino is no longer the cute girl next door singing to the moon about some boy who lives two streets over. She’s more mature and less awkward. Once you get halfway through Place though, you realize the melodies are still gorgeous and the backbeats still kick. That’s what’s really important anyway.
BUY IT?: Surely.
BEACH HOUSE —Bloom
THE GOOD: Baltimore indie duo Beach House releases their fourth brilliant hour.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally and French-born keyboardist/vocalist Victoria Legrand got together a decade ago and they’ve been making grand yet understated records ever since Beach House is one of those rare bands that can give you almost the same album over and over again, yet completely floor you every damn time. The stylistic differences between Bloom and 2010’s Teen Dream are subtle at best, but these new songs are the finest the pair have ever crafted.
The term “dream pop” only begins to define their sound. Bloom washes over the listener with ethereal guitars, low burning keyboards and Legrand’s wispy multi-layered vocals. Comparisons to the Cocteau Twins are practically mandatory. Detecting echoes of vintage Velvet Underground while being reminded of contemporaries such as School of Seven Bells or Charlotte Gainsbourg is not far off the mark either.
Individual tracks almost don’t matter (although Bloom is not short on gems) for the new collection works extremely well as a hypnotic whole that will send you on a seemingly permanent otherworldly drift.
BUY IT?: Oh yes.
NEW RELEASES — CD
DEAD CAN DANCE — Anastasis
INSANE CLOWN POSSE — The Mighty Death Pop
STEVE VAI — The Story of Light
YELLOWCARD — Southern Air
NEW RELEASES — DVD
THE RAID: REDEMPTION
TONIGHT YOU’RE MINE