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Just not as interesting as she can be!
on 8 July 2007
It's difficult to find the medium ground between being too hard or too hair when reviewing 'Begin To Hope'. It's been her most successful album and has turned a lot of people onto her music, but there's no doubting its a more accessible and mainstream effort which has had a few fans that I know cursing her record label. The only issue I'm concerned with, however, is good songs. And unfortunately, it's sadly lacking here.
'Begin To Hope' is not a bad album, lets make that clear. But there is just something about it that doesnt fit, it feels too straightforward for this instantly identifiable songwriter. Take opener 'Fidelity'; one of the few songs in Spektor's catalogue to implement more instrumentation, but it just doesnt do anything that interesting; the beats, the piano are all worryingly restrained and it just doesnt go anywhere exciting. Same with 'On The Radio'. It goes nowhere, and just lets Regina's vocals take over. Now she's a great singer, but she cant be expected to carry half an album's worth of songs on her back. These songs are missing what makes Regina special and different from other singer/songwriters; her playful and often fictional lyrics, her singing accents and unique melodies, and they've been replaced with such simple and seemingly pointless instrumentation that it just feels....well, wrong. And when we get something approaching a proper 'band' song in the form of the plodding 'Better', things dont really improve either. It all feels too simple and lacking in identity.
Now those mentioned songs arent anything approaching shameful, but its the more 'traditional' Regina songs that are this album's strongpoint; just her and her piano. 'Samson', a reworking from a previous album is a lovely quiet ballad, as she wistfully sings about "my sweetest downfall". 'Field Below' has an almost lounge-club feel about it, as it melodically unwraps a pleasant lament.
To be honest, I'm not too worried at Regina's perceived shift to the mainstream with 'Begin To Hope', as it will surely bring her more fans, who'll hopefully pick up 'Soviet Kitsch', her previous and best album. What I am worried about is the lack of soul and sparseness of identity and quality on show here.