It's been almost three years since Regina Spektor's last album, Far, was released. Never fear: on May 29th, she drops her latest album, cleverly titled What We Saw From the Cheap Seats. The official video for the album's first single, "All the Rowboats," was released to Youtube this week, and the single is available for purchase on i-Tunes, for $1.29.
Far was my second favorite album of 2009, so I am anxious to see if the new material lives up to my lofty expectations. Based on this single, I have nothing to worry about. I am particularly happy to see that "All the Rowboats" is a somber affair, continuing the darker mood she explored in songs like "Blue Lips" and "Machine" on Far.
Now before I annoy any loyal Regina fans who do not like Tori Amos, let me clarify that I do not find them all that similar, and I think any attempts to lump them together because they both play piano and write their own songs are sexist, and pretty lame. If anything, I'd compare Regina more to Fiona Apple than Tori, but the fact is that she's a singular talent who is not really like anyone else that I listen to.
However, that being said, there is a definite Tori Amos vibe on this single (musically speaking), and that's entirely a good thing. One of the highlights of "All the Rowboats" is a very sinister burst of keyboards starting at approx 1:21 in, and those keyboards strongly echo Tori Amos at her late 90s peak (think Choirgirl era), with perhaps a touch of "Precious Things." I know there is a contingent of Spektorites who don't want their hot girl of the moment compared to some feminist forerunner, but the fact is, it's a valid comparison in this case, and one that does not take away from the originality of this song in any way, shape, or form.
"All the Rowboats" is an ominous piece of amazement; in fact, Consequence of Sound has already labeled this as "one of our favorite songs this year so far." That's terrific praise! Lyrically, she turns the rowboats in oil paintings hanging in a museum into living beings who are forever trying to escape from their pictures: totally Regina, and very original amidst the humdrum of much of today's music. Just consider these words: "First there's lights out, then there's lock up. Masterpieces serving maximum sentences. It's their own fault for being timeless: there's a price to pay, and a consequence."
Vocally, she sounds strong, but never oversings. Her tone matches the solemnity of the song. As far as the music, it's downright enveloping, from the previously mentioned Amos-like keyboards, to the unique and instantly recognizable Regina piano, and most surprisingly, sharp bursts of drums that add a sense of urgent fear to the proceedings.
Hats off to Regina, and here's hoping the entire album is as good as this first single!