One of the ways in which Regina Spektor can be considered the best musician of her generation is her ability to shape beautiful, soaring melodic lines that fit perfectly within the emotion of the music and heighten everything around it. Once again, she delivers with a collection of songs that pull the listener in and make them feel a string of emotions through her simplistic and gorgeous melodies. There were no real melodic shortcomings on Remember Us To Life; they were all quite wonderful with unique aspects to each of them. From the gut-wrenching soar of “Older and Taller” to the beautiful falls in “Tornadoland”, these melodic shapes are what keep people coming back to Regina. They are plain enough that you feel so connected to them, almost like you’ve been hearing them for years. Yet there’s also enough nuances within each individual line to give off unique personality and also give the music some form of identity. At sparse times throughout the album there was a sense of the melody simply plotting along and following rather than truly leading, which in turn made us lose a sense of continuation and sensible direction within the album that other more perfect albums have. However, that’s hardly a downfall, and the individual songs themselves are still brilliantly written. There are many musicians that are on the same musical path as Spektor and try to find gorgeous singer-songwriter moments through piano. They may get the timbre and harmonies down, but most of the time they don’t come close to matching Spektor’s melodic intrigue. Spektor’s melodies don’t just make us listen; they make us feel. This album is a great example of that.
If one were to isolate the harmony and listen to it alone, it may sound as if a romantic/post-romantic era composer wrote it. This is only applicable to several songs, but Regina indeed has brought in her romantic piano influences from a time in history when harmony was at a high point for creativity. Her usage of secondary dominants, modal modulations, and borrowed chords such as the Neopolitan and bIII give her music incredible color along with incredible sense. Even the chord inversions she decides to use work perfectly to a dime. When she is at the piano, she produces pure harmonic gold that is nothing short of intoxicating. “The Light” is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard in my life, and that is mostly due to her other-worldly sense of harmonic flow within her already beautiful singer-songwriter atmosphere. Unlike the melody and timbre in this album, there were just a few dips in harmonic quality from song to song didn’t smooth out the album and make it as perfect of an experience as it could have been. Her experimentation was never detrimental; even the most unusual song of the album “Small Bill$” still had wonderful musical moments. If only songs such as “Small Bill$” and “ The Trapper and the Furrier” were as consistent with the breath-taking harmonic flow that the others had, this album would be in the conversation as one of the best albums made in the last 10 years. While it may not be quite there, there are some absolutely wonderful harmonies in Remember Us To Life that will make musicians study them and learn them, myself included.
No popular musician has been better at writing for piano than Regina Spektor in the last 25 years, and beyond that she may only come 3rd behind Billy Joel and Elton John. Her command of the piano is so remarkable, and it comes out very well in this album. You cannot overlook the fact she uses the piano’s range and register to perfection while harvesting a unique and amazing emotional feel. Her decisions on the dynamics and articulations throughout her songs on this album come together extremely well to shape the music. On top of that, the additions of strings at vital times in her music are the work of a true orchestrator. She knows just when to build the texture up and when to strip it down, as exemplified especially in “Grand Hotel” and “Tornadoland”. She fakes us out a little in the beginning of the album by her heavy reliance on electronics in the songs “Bleeding Heart” and “Small Bill$”. They weren’t ineffective by any means, but it had me thinking that Regina was simply going a new route with her music that may or may not work by the end. However, those were the two outliers, and for the rest of the album she was at her best with finding beauty through the piano, strings, vocals, and soft electronic echoes. While it would have been interesting to find out if she could take a new direction and still be as successful, this album proved to me that she creates her best music through the more acoustic timbres. Her lyrics are insightful and poetic, as if she holds the meaning of life within herself. The lyrics and overall sound in “The Visit” was such an effective way to end the album. All in all, Remember Us To Life continued to solidify Regina as one of the very best who ever lived at obtaining musical beauty.
It is such a musically profound album, but nothing that Regina hasn’t done before. The only buzz I heard of this album prior to its release came from her die-hard fans. Those who are indeed fans of Regina have found great musical enlightenment and deserve to be rewarded with another great album. I can only pray and hope that others who may not seek the same musical enlightenment still listen to it as well. Remember Us To Life is beautiful and worthwhile, but it needs the attention it deserves before it can be deemed truly influential. I don’t have enough conviction or faith in today’s music world to say that it will. Remember, though, intangible influence is the score that can change overtime. To reach the status of incredible, this album needs a large amount of awareness in today’s listeners that can turn doubters into believers. That could still happen, but as of now Regina is just a whisper in the ear of the entire music market.
Final Score: 158/180