Regina Spektor

Soviet Kitsch

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Maybe it's just the preponderance of piano in her music, but Regina Spektor sounds more like a traditional singer/songwriter (in the best sense of that phrase) than her anti-folk contemporaries. On Soviet Kitsch, her third album -- and major-label debut -- her sound is more refined than ever before, but there are still plenty of rough edges and unexpected twists and turns. The Fiona Apple and Cat Power comparisons that have been leveled at Spektor since her first album 11:11 are still valid, particularly on songs like "Carbon Monoxide" and "Somedays," but Spektor is more theatrical and playful than either of those artists. Quirky character sketches such as "Ghost of Corporate Future" and "Ode to Divorce," and flights of fancy like the charming "Us" are quintessentially Spektor; though her songs may not be diary entries set to music, she imbues them with lots of personality and intimate details. Nowhere is this more apparent than on "Chemo Limo," a strangely uplifting song about a woman living with (not dying from) cancer that ends up being one of Soviet Kitsch's standout moments. "Flowers," which begins with a section inspired by her classical training and then moves to a part based on her Russian Jewish heritage, also shows how easily Spektor can incorporate different sounds and ideas into her own music. She does a 180 on the raw "Sailor Song," on which she gleefully yells, "Marianne's a bitch," and on the punky, off-the-cuff "Your Honor," which also features the London rock group Kill Kenada. A few of Soviet Kitsch's songs, like "Poor Little Rich Boy," concentrate on the childlike, mischievous side of Spektor's sound that puts her in the love-it-or-hate-it category for some listeners. Still, Spektor is an engaging performer throughout the album, and despite her arty quirks, she's never pretentious. She originally self-released Soviet Kitsch nearly two years before Sire released it, so it'll be interesting to hear what she does next.

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