Begin to Hope
For bandwagon-fleeing Tori fans bitching that Myra Ellen has gotten soft with motherhood (wrong), here’s Russian-born, New York-bred Regina Spektor to satisfy your piano cravings and keep your hipster cred in the black. Following 2004’s stellar Soviet Kitsch, which helped put Spektor on the indie map near, but thankfully not of, the freak-folk scene, Begin to Hope finds her settling into the girl-and-her-piano territory staked out by Amos in the early ’90s, expanded more recently to include Sarah Slean and welcome back Fiona Apple. Spektor’s assured ivory-pounding and big, dramatic voice—think Jenn Grant, on recreational drugs—serve as the core of these 12 tracks, which vary wildly from bell-tinged jangle (lead track and single “Fidelity”) to vaguely techno-driven (“Edit”) and late-night torch song (“Field Below”), with no clunker in the bunch. A clever, open lyricist, Spektor will make you laugh when you least expect it and layers in a bunch of vocal effects and sonic touchstones, packing each song to capacity. “Apres Moi” bears much resemblance to Tori’s “Icicle” (check that cover photo while you’re at it—they could be sisters) and includes lines in French and Russian. At times Spektor sacrifices heart for quirk, something Kitsch found a balance between, but it’s a minor complaint in the face of this musical event.