It seems almost a crime to have Regina Spektor be just the opening act for The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks July 10. The Russian-born singer-songwriter wrote some of the finest personal pop tunes of the 2005-2015 period, but remained largely silent after 2016 until the release of Home, Before and After (Sire/Warner Music). Spektor recruited producer John Congleton to craft an album that retains a touch of sparkly pop, but is largely serious and introspective in intent.
Spektor can’t help but be whimsical, but she sets the tone in the opener “Becoming All Alone,” when she asks God, “Why doesn’t it get better with time? ... This whole world makes me carsick.” Yet this is not a compendium of grief. Songs like “Up the Mountain” take chances with bold arrangements. She tries to get inside the heads of people who may not deserve empathy, such as the lovelorn male in “One Man’s Prayer.” And even if other tracks like “Spacetime Fairytale” get a bit over-orchestrated, all 10 tracks remind us why Spektor is one of the 21st century’s finest songwriters.
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fanclubwallet, You Have Got to Be Kidding Me (AWAL) – Ottawa-based songwriter Hannah Judge has a way of getting under the listener’s skin. At first, her mix of electronica and a voice like early Cat Power or Frances Quinlan seems mildly interesting, albeit forgettable. But then the best of tunes like “Trying to Be Nice” or “Coming Over” become infectious, demanding repeated plays. By the fourth or fifth time, the listener realizes that fanclubwallet resembles a subversive, intellectual Katy Perry.
Joe Rainey, Niineta (37d03d) – Powwow singers have long deserved a wider audience, but there was always a fear that some producer would either make traditional chants morph into orchestral pop or EDM-infused nonsense. Luckily, Ojibwe singer Rainey has good taste and good friends, linking up with the 37d03d collective of Bon Iver and the Dessner brothers. Sometimes the tracks here can be a bit too experimental, but the ones hewing closest to traditional indigenous dances, such as “bezhigo” and “turned engine,” remain true to the powwow spirit.