Regina Spektor has thread needles of jubilant and poignantly straightforward songwriting that sends the song’s themes to the forefront with clean vibes. “SugarMan” off her latest album, Home, before and after, reminds us of that as she reflects on the deceptive lust money can bring. Using sugar as the analogy gives it different avenues to explore while rounding it out with captivatingly catchy choruses; it gets boasted by Spektor’s vocals, coming across as joyously driven when performing what she writes. Home, before and after, has conciseness to its sound and style, where it makes you feel like it’s getting played during a session of merriment in the creative process. It reminded me of Fiona Apple’s last album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, at times, where the vibrancy came from the naturalistic instrumentation–sans synths–that keeps it centered on its sound. It drives home the potent quality of the new Spektor album, even if it doesn’t tread new territory often.
There’s a lot to love about the new Regina Spektor album, whether it’s the lively vibes or Regina’s fragile and potent vocals. She’s allowing her songwriting to give us these perspectives that elevate the lyrical depth, which gets attributed to how she has taken the horns of the anti-folk genre and offers radiant deliveries. It’s a constant that stays effervescent, even if parts of tracks don’t carry a flurry of captivating melodies heard in “SugarMan” or “Loveology.” We hear this on the enigmatic “Up the Mountain,” where that energy she exuberates gets matched as you take it in. It’s similarly effervescent within most of the tracks on the album, save for “What Might Have Been,” which has her shifting to her apropos nebulous piano playing that can whisk some fans away but isn’t as effective here.
It’s sometimes apparent throughout the album, outweighing that one time, specifically “One Man’s Prayer,” Spektor’s songwriting isn’t as keen and slightly forgettable. Though it’s one track, others are grounded, which gives us a vibe similar to when you first heard “Wallet” for the first time. Upon hearing her take us through this humbling tale about the contents of a wallet with Blockbuster memberships, it gives us a closer 1:1 relativity instead of having to pick apart various metaphors. Regina Spektor’s vocals uproot these little negatives to keep its front-to-back listen’s fluidity intact.
Spektor weaves a consistent thread that emboldens her written and vocal technique in music. It allows time to become a small fragment of importance. Some directions that get taken perk up your ears with captivating melodies and harmonies that are keener on her identity, like “Loveology” or the enthralling “Raindrops,” which echoes the DIY Pop/Rock style we heard on Fetch the Bolt Cutters. It isn’t as direct as 1:1, but there is nuance to it, especially as it takes away from aspects of that echoey backing to drive a homely atmosphere. It’s heard a few times with the inner transitions of tracks like “SugarMan” or the opening track, “Becoming All Alone.” In between some emotionally melancholy piano playing–sometimes it’s mundane–there is something that catches your ear. On “Coin,” after some uninteresting piano playing, at the 3:34 mark, a shift gets heard, and some of that DIY Pop/Rock returns. It isn’t on the nose, but the very live and powerful band instrumentation gets driven to new peaks.
It’s the biggest strength of Home, before and after, as it elevates to new plateaus with its instrumentation. Sure, Regina Spektor and producer John Congleton can underwhelm at times–this is true–what shrouds these moments are these fantastic instrumentations that feel cinematic and triumphant. “Up The Mountain” is one of them, and the other is the incredible “Spacetime Fairytale.” Regina Spektor digs into her heart and develops a song about the love she holds for her son, reminding him that the world is vast as she focuses on influences that guide her songwriting and vocal performances. It’s heartwarming, but its continually building production makes the “story” expand. You hear these beautiful twinkly piano keys rhythmically before shifting to more creatively orchestrated pieces of grandeur. It’s more dynamic and viscerally captivating, taking it notches about the already fantastic “Raindrops.”
Home, before and after is another fantastic effort from Regina Spektor. There are some shortcomings, but there is a lot to indulge and get lost in as the instrumentations. I left feeling like nothing has changed since the last album. She continues to explore and cement a foundation for greatness as she has done throughout her career. I’d definitely recommend it as you’ll get what you expect, especially for fans.
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