Despite her youth, Regina Spektor sings like she’s seen the world and isn’t that impressed. Her first album, Soviet Kitsch, pulls together strands of French chanson, Berlin cabaret, edgy rock and operatic vocal turns closer to Queen than Pavarotti.
Spektor sometimes sings English like a foreign language, stretching vowels beyond recognition and riffing on awkward consonants. Her piano follows the rolling rhythms of the short stories she tells, building in intensity before falling back. It’s a style closer to the rhythms of speech than the steady four-four march of rock music. In “Poor Little Rich Boy,” Spektor sneeringly tells the tale, while playing piano with the right hand and beating a rhythm with a drumstick in her left, of a socialite dealing with loneliness. With a buzzing string section behind her, in “Us” Spektor recalls two lovers great enough to deserve a statue in their honor. She knows, though, that such glory leads to recriminations and a nasty fall from grace. “Your Honor,” with buzzy guitars and screaming vocals, proves that Spektor could become a rock singer if she wanted.
The odd sound, unlike anything I’ve heard before, grows on me with each listen. It reminds me of the first time I heard Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. Spektor’s songs enter my head when I least expect it, and I want to grab the CD and hear her strange voice. Soviet Kitsch is an impressive debut for the young song writer.