Last year Regina Spektor cast a spell on me. I was in a local second-hand CD store, tightly clasping a copy of Luke Haines‘s The Oliver Twist Manifesto in my sweaty little paw, when the “now playing” CD switched, and the shop was filled with the sound of a mournful piano and a female voice going “Dun-da-dun-da-dun-da-dun-dun”. Intrigued, I stopped to listen, and pretty soon she was hammering her keyboard and chanting “Oedipus, Oedipus, Oedipus!!!” It was stunning. It was a revelation… almost a religious moment! It’s always something of a shock to be reminded just how fun can be had with a single human voice and minimal instrumentation. The appeal is directly related to the charm and energy of the performance, and the captivating wit behind the wordplay. I imagine it must be quite an experience to witness the magic up-close and personal. Anyway, I rushed to the counter and demanded to know: “Who is this?” The album in question was titled Mary Ann meets the Gravediggers and Other Short Stories by Regina Spektor, and it was purchased as soon as he could eject the disc from his stereo… all warm and toasty from the tray. Apparently it was a UK-only release, to help us limeys play catch up, while whetting our appetite for more, and it certainly worked on me!
Back to the present: Miss Spektor has a new album coming out in June, and the first single (“Laughing With”) has already been released. Now, I’m no marketing guru, but I’m not sure it was quite such a good idea to lead with a song that dwells on terminal illness, disease and hunger… because, frankly, it’s a bit of a downer. It’s a lovely song, and there’s a payoff punchline at the end, but it doesn’t exactly leap out at you as a classic summertime anthem. Thankfully she’s sticking with the winning, stripped-back formula that characterises her best work though. There are a lot of great songs on her previous album, Begin to Hope, but sometimes I felt her essence was being swamped by the production… if that makes any sense. Since that first exposure a year ago, I’ve encountered a number of imitators… but they’ve all lacked her lyrical flare, and simply couldn’t hold a candle to the one true Queen of Anti-Folk when she’s firing on all cylinders. Bless her.