Collected Works: Music
Begin to Hope
by Regina Spektor
A booming melody rumbles from the low register of a piano. Minor chords quiver above, trembling in triplet quavers. The notes play out a scene of unrest, a monarch watching from their balcony as a crowd of wrathful wraiths approach. In the moments of relative calm, the hammering of a single pitch imitates a clanging bell, prefiguring the ‘ding-dong’ tolls to come. Snare hits, aggressive chants, and timpani strokes complete the revolution.
Regina Spektor takes her inspiration from the poetic and the prosaic, chewing up and spitting out anything she can get her hands on, from Shakespeare to the text on the ‘back of cereal boxes’. She ponders orcas and owls, cigarettes and cocaine, floods and frotteurism. On ‘Après Moi’, she flits about on a trilingual jaunt, flaunting her French and Russian, referencing Boris Pasternak and Madame de Pompadour for good measure.
Moments of idiosyncratic syntax and vocal delivery are sprinkled freely. The sugary squeal of ‘cheap and juicy’ carries the citric buzz of the tangerines described. In the same song, the wary word repetition in the line, ‘Hey, remember that time when you OD’ed for the second time’ conveys a sense of tentativeness. Elsewhere, grunts are added mid-phrase and words dissected: a ‘heart’ is broken into thirteen short, stuttering parts.
The harmonic backdrop is just as varied, placing chirpy pop chord progressions alongside rough digressions. On ‘20 Years of Snow’, the bassline begins by sauntering downwards in predictable steps, but later trudges about in uncertain dissonance. Over the course of Begin to Hope, Regina Spektor embraces both light promenades and vigorous marches, keen to embody both the reigning queen and the ghostly peasant gathering below.
Words by John Wadsworth
Question of the day
Ys by Joanna Newsom. A stunning example of storytelling and sophisticated songwriting, underpinned by an immaculate orchestral accompaniment. (→)
– John Wadsworth, Silent Frame's Editor-in-Chief (via Patreon →)