Four years after her Top Five album What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, and three after being introduced to some via her original theme song for the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, Regina Spektor returns with Remember Us to Life. With a title that reflects its poignancy, at least relative to her catalog to date, it's still defined by Spektor's offbeat way with melody, phrasing, and diction, while expanding arrangements. Those arrangements span intimate piano ballads (though never merely voice and piano) and fully orchestrated set pieces, with a promise to reward those with a fondness for theatrical pop. Falling somewhere within the range of instrumentation is the jaunty "Older and Taller," which addresses a cad's return, with piano, drums, strings, and wordplay like "And all the lies, they were wiser/And the wise were the liars/And the liars were on fire/And the fires were put out." On the sparer side, and not to be confused with "Hotel Song" from one of her earlier EPs, "Grand Hotel" is a piano piece in 6/8 time, ornamented with occasional strings and tales of supernatural spirits. Later, "Small Bill$" takes an odd turn into playful, orchestral hip-hop that's followed by two earnest ballads, including the disarmingly profound "The Light" ("So many things I know, but they don't help me/Each day I open up my eyes and start again"). The most classical-minded entry, "Seller of Flowers," is contemporary orchestral song.
Arriving within a few years of first-time stage musicals for adult alternative songwriters Sara Bareilles (Waitress) and Tori Amos (The Light Princess), Remember Us to Life makes Spektor seem a natural for such a project, especially with her ease at mixing charming ballads and flamboyant chamber pop here. (If "The Trapper and the Furrier" weren't an audition for a musical-theater assignment, it could have been.) Actually, prior to the release of WWSFTCS, she was reported to have been working on music for a stage adaptation of Sleeping Beauty. While Broadway fans wait, they and others who can embrace the album's occasional leaps in tone have another distinctly Spektor song set to enjoy. Ultimately, the sweetness that's always been as much a part of her musical persona as quirkiness overrides any embellishment, offering a touch of drama without pretension.