What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
For dramatic reach — everything from whimsy to pathos — Regina Spektor’s 2006 album “Begin to Hope” was a real stunner, a wonderfully paced outpouring of emotion that pushed at contemporary pop’s seams and never lacked for surprises. Although not as sweeping in scope and, alas, bereft of her heart-stopping glottal stops, the Russian-American pianist’s new “What We Saw From the Cheap Seats” is nevertheless a signal achievement, a set of beguiling originals abounding with hooks, humanity and endearing quirks.
Foremost in the quirky department, “Oh Marcello” interpolates the tagline from the Animals’ “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” into a campy, mock-classical romp. Restlessly inventive, the track essays almost too many terrific ideas to be contained in three minutes, recalling a less over-the-top Queen or a more freewheeling Paul McCartney. The ping-ponging peaks and valleys of “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” are as loopy as they are enchanting, especially when, sounding a McGarrigles-inspired note, Spektor tenderly replaces the image of an aging woman’s varicose-veined legs with one of their young and shapely predecessors.