Highlights: Oh Marcello, All The Rowboats, The Party
Choosing between this one and Fiona Apple’s new outburst of precious, jazzy verbosity, I just had to settle for the former. For now. There’s no question that there’s something similar between the two ladies (vocal mannerisms, stylish arrangements), but Regina Spektor’s songs are by far more immediate and accessible. Some of that Kate Nash in there, I guess. Fiona’s latest needs 5 full, selfless listens at the very least, while What We Saw From Our Cheap Seats is essentially a sweet, lush pop record.
However, with that charming, slightly quirky edge of hers. Regina does cut a sort of Kate Bush-like figure, albeit somewhat too sugary and one-dimensional (admittedly Kate Bush could seem sugary on her first two albums, but never one-dimensional). Not that you can ever go wrong with Regina's childish, disarming tunefulness and her playful piano that is one half classical, one half twee.
Perhaps the best thing about this album is the dark, upbeat single “All The Rowboats”, but I also feel guiltily addicted to the second single, the infectious and reggae-ish “Don’t Leave Me Now (Ne me quitte pas)”, all so silly and adorable. In fact, the more inventive and eccentric she gets, the better; “Oh Marcello”, for instance, is another personal favourite, with that timeless “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, oh Lord please don’t let me be misunderstood” line. Great quote, amazing tune.
Sadly, What We Saw… is just not your classic example of consistency. Half of the album is made up of Regina in her pretty piano ballad mood, and it’s not necessarily a good thing. Some of it may work (like the opener “Small Town Moon”), but it may also sound bland and fluffy. I inevitably get bored by the uneventful “How” (as well as a few others) that chooses to go for beauty rather than substance.
We end on a very good note, though, with the brief, gorgeous, ‘educational’ guitar ballad called “Jessica”. A call for maturity, and a very fitting way to finish things off. I don’t know, though, that it's maturity that I want from Regina Spektor. She has charm, she has personality. She has songs, too – just not enough of those, I'm afraid. So in the meantime I'll have to settle for a 7.