Regina Spektor
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.

Spektor’s fetching eccentricities aside, there’s at least a handful of radio-ready singles here, thanks in part to the direction of Dr. Dre protege and Eminem producer Mike Elizondo. “The Party” is just what it says, and then some. “May I propose a little toast for all of the ones who hurt the most / For all the friends that we have lost,” Spektor urges over a stately brass arrangement. Rich in empathy, her sentiment is anything but cheap, despite the vantage point invoked in her album’s title.

Bill Friskics-Warren

Recommended tracks

“The Party,” “Oh Marcello,”
“Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)”

Regina Spektor's album “What We Saw From The Cheap Seats.” (Courtesy of Sire Records)