Regina Spektor's sixth outing, the predictably unpredictable What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, feels a little like a Wes Anderson movie. By now, you're either on board with the Russian-American's unique blend of East Village anti-folk and immaculately detailed thespian indie pop, or you've swapped her wares for the more accessible quirkiness of Fun. or the lunchroom loner art pop of St. Vincent. Like Anderson, Spektor is a gifted world builder, and one of Cheap Seats' greatest strengths is its prep school confidence. Utterly disparate tracks like "Oh Marcello," which utilizes the tried and true hitmaking equation of a fake Italian accent, beatboxing, and the chorus from the Animals' “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” and the gorgeous "Firewood," an artful and winningly austere ode to life and death that brings to mind vintage Randy Newman, are both given equal attention, and the weighty "Ballad of a Politician," despite its call to "Shake your ass out in that street," feels timely and deeply rooted in that blurry line between youthful indiscretion and civic stewardship. Still, it's a wild ride, and Spektor, despite her immaculate execution, can be a bit much, especially when it comes to vocal mannerisms (think Tori Amos and Nellie McKay in an affectation-off), but much like the works of the aforementioned Anderson, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats succeeds more often than it frustrates.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger