In her last album, Regina Spektor told us she “pitied the violins”. However, Remember Us To Life turns its back to that by offering one of the most musically rich albums of Spektor’s career to date, with plenty of violins and strings to boot. The album meanders through her inspiration and genres; some we’ve heard before and others, yet to be fully realised.
Right away we’re treated to some of the strongest tracks on the album. Opening with the lead single, ‘Bleeding Heart’, a low pulsating synth propels the track along while Spektor’s falsetto dominates the chorus, accompanied by a modulating melody.
Remember Us… leans heavily towards the theatrical, more so than ever before. ‘Older and Taller’ is awash with instruments and is one of the core tracks from this album; you’d be forgiven for thinking the strings and percussion were taken straight from the Sweeney Todd score.
Spektor has always been known for her eccentric storytelling, it’s something she does like nobody else and has been more apparent on her earlier albums than her recent forays. That being said, ‘Sellers of Flowers’ and particularly ‘Grand Hotel’ are wonderful little fables. The latter, opening with directions to the monumental resort, we learn it’s a “tunnel that leads straight to hell”. With plenty more allegorical lyrics, we learn through a cadence that could only belong to Regina Spektor of the hellish hotel’s inhabitants “hiding sharp horns under fedoras”; in some ways, it’s Wes Anderson meets ‘Hotel California’.
In an unexpected shift, the NYC native channels English rapper M.I.A in ‘Small Bill$’ a hip-hop laden track bearing no resemblance to anything we’ve heard before. The percussion towers over the other instruments as the piano is cast aside for at least this track; it’s different, but it’s tremendously catchy.
Again we see more dramatic elements of Spektor’s music brought into the mix. ‘The Trapper and The Furrier’ is dissonant and harrowing, starting with an acapella introduction before bringing in a jarring performance of strings and drums that culminate in roars of “more, more, more, more”. Not every moment like this is as macabre though, ‘The Light’ hints at older material, deserving of any Disney princess as she sings “the light comes shining in my eyes”.
While the album as a whole is beautiful, sometimes it fades into the distance and fails to keep your attention. Certain tracks, while not truly “filler material”, are definitely more forgettable. The gospel infused ‘Obsolete’, longing ballad ‘Black and White’ and final track ‘The Visit’ all have one thing in common; they are much more bare than their comrades, lacking the rich instrumentation of the remainder of the album.
When looking back at Spektor’s back catalogue it would be easy to to criticise new work. While certain tracks barely stick in the mind, the progress she has made to embellish her overall sound is laudable. What Remember Us… offers, is a redefined Spektor; a nod to the past and a new sense of purpose for the future.