21 August, 2010

Hold on, one more time with feeling.

I don't know if this is true for most people, but I tend not to have an instant visceral connection to most of the albums I listen to – at least not in full. There will generally be one or two songs that I absolutely love upon the first few listens, I'll come back to these songs again and again, but not listen to the rest of an album. This is what happens with 99% of artists that are either new to me, or that I only enjoy on certain occasions. That other 1% is all of the artists that I adore, and whose albums I listen to over and over.

But there is an exception to this rule, and her name is Regina Spektor. I love her music, and count her in my top ten favorite artists at the moment, but I can rarely take in an entire album by her when it is first released. I will listen and love a few songs, enjoy the rest of the album but find it not quite the right fit at the time. However, when I return in a month or two a few more songs will be a perfect fit. This pattern usually repeats over the next year or two, so that even when Far was released, I was still coming to terms with some of the songs on Begin to Hope. I find this refreshing and challenging. I feel as if I grow with every album that she releases, and grow into the albums over time and with changes in mood and emotion. The beauty of every song is not immediately accessible, or easy to understand and grasp. Not everything is revealed with a hook and a clever line.

At the beginning of this summer, I was enamored with "Dance Anthem of the '80s," "The Calculation," and "Folding Chair". I liked the rest of the album, but my disposition was too undeniably sunny to quite grab ahold of "Blue Lips" and "Genius Next Door," and a lot of the rest of the album. "Wallet" was too mundane, "Two Birds" was too cynical, "Machine" was too post-apocalyptic, even "Eet" and "Laughing With" – two songs I had enjoyed quite a bit as singles – were a bit too dark. The shading on the album was just blue enough that it sent chills through my May and June self, and I wanted to ignore those chills until I could fully appreciate them.

Well here I am, a month into a trip across the world, and the album is hitting me hard and close to my heart. It is a testament to how much has changed in my life since May that now "Wallet" is an intensely poetic investigation of the perceived distance between individuals that can be spanned, for moments at a time with a little imagination, by the objects that inhabit our lives. "Machine" is a humorous play on that post-apocalyptic feeling that is so often evoked without any heart. But it is saved by a genuine critique of the coldness and distance that can come from unthinkingly accepting technology into your life and person. "Human of The Year" is a commentary on how people are praised after they have died, and held as golden standards when they were really just people. "Genius Next Door" has a melancholy tone and tells a narrative that is, well, water-logged. It has the weight of a classic Tchaikovsky score, and is full of little vignettes of a town surrounding a lake. I think my favorite of my new favorites is "One More Time With Feeling," which just encapsulates a feeling of being stuck and trying so hard, but not feeling like you're moving anywhere. It is wonderfully written and exactly what I am feeling right now.

1 comment:

PnB said...

i can't comment about Spektor as i have only listened to a handful of her tracks, but i can say that in her case i've never had that gut reaction to her songs. But once in a while i do get that visceral reaction, but i wouldn't use the word "connection". For me it's always the feeling communicated and how that's expressed rather than the words and music of the song that makes me pay extra attention to certain tracks. the technical side and the musicianship come 2nd when i'm assessing songs. However, other tracks that don't immediately don't appeal to me often will later with repeated listening tend to have equally strong reaction within me too. it may sound completely like impressionistic criticism, and i guess it is- music is almost completely a subjective affair with me.