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The Courier Classics: Regina Spektor’s “Begin to Hope”

Written by Album reviews, Culture, Music

There are some artists who manage to set the music scene on fire, only for their fanfare to die down, and keep dying down, until their celebrity doesn’t even end up lasting the decade.

Regina Spektor is, tragically, one such artist: despite three of her four noughties releases – Soviet Kitsch, Begin to Hope and Far – managing to make over a million sales between them in America alone, the world of popular culture largely left her behind in the 2000s. In an attempt to rekindle the once-bright flame of her fandom, let’s take a closer look at Begin to Hope, the album perhaps most beloved by her fans (yes, both of them).

Begin to Hope has the unrefined edge that first earnt Regina Spektor a name on the East Village anti-folk scene

Spektor’s 2004 release and major label debut Soviet Kitsch
Image: Brett Jordan on Flickr

The album includes several songs that Spektor would go on to re-record – “Fidelity”, “That Time” and “On the Radio” all make their first appearance here – put next to songs that Spektor hasn’t touched since, such as “20 Years of Snow”. The production is so bare-boned that even later live albums – like the creatively named Live in London ­– seem higher-budget and more carefully put together. As her career progressed and continues to progress, Spektor becomes more self-assured, but in becoming more polished, she loses the unrefined edge that first earnt her a name on the East Village anti-folk scene. Another release held in similar regard – Soviet Kitsch – features the 45 second track “Whisper”, wherein her brother pesters Spektor under his breath into playing the next song on the album. Once the production value on her releases ramped up, it became clear there was no longer room for something so superfluous, despite that playfulness being exactly what made the early albums great.

Spektor’s voice can be quiet, but is never meak, or unassertive

Begin to Hope is no exception: it’s rough and unrefined, but to use that to criticise the album would be to miss the point entirely. Its imperfections only serve to complement the vulnerability that shines through in her lyrics and in her voice. When singing on the album, Spektor manages at points to be quiet, but never meak, or unassertive. To call this album a diamond in the rough isn’t inaccurate, but it also shouldn’t be a pejorative.  

Last modified: 10th December 2019

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