Regina Spektor tells it like it is on Remember us to Life
by Michelle Turk
On Friday, September 30, New York Singer-Songwriter and Pianist Regina Spektor released Remember us to Life on Warner Brothers Records. Since 2004, Spektor has released four albums and performed worldwide. While she is well known for penning the theme song to Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, her fans have known her for telling a story with every song, and Remember us to Life is exceptionally full of stories that share Regina’s observations of the modern world.
One of the most spectacular stories on the record was within the single “Small Bill$.” The song is a tale of a man who seems to have enough money but spends senselessly. “He spent it all and didn’t even feel it.” The chorus of “la la la’s” gives the song a very nonchalant yet irritating feel- a likely intention of Spektor’s. The lyrics attack the very common problem of debt, as many of her millennial fans face the eternal debt that comes along with the American post-secondary education. She mentions the poets coughing up blood, which seems to be a nod to the classic Puccini’s La Bohème in which the heroine dies of tuberculosis. “Everybody gonna want their money//Better get a head start, start running,” Spektor warns over a hip-hop beat paired with cinematic strings.
Another haunting story told via the songstress is “The Trapper and the Furrier.” In the intro and outro, Spektor sings unaccompanied, and you could swear she is sitting straight across from you as you listen. Each verse tells the story of a powerful team of men walking through paradise. These are men who take advantage of the weak and poor as well as the system, starting with the Trapper and the Furrier who are predators to innocent animals they hunt. The third verse talks about the lawyer and pharmacist. The verse is reminiscent of “Chemo Limo” from Soviet Kitsch (2004)- Spektor’s first release from Sire Records. In the story of “Chemo Limo,” the main character- sick with cancer- contemplates what she could purchase with her money instead of treatments. On the other hand are the people who profit from it- such as the lawyer and pharmacist. The chorus speaks for itself, “What a strange, strange world we live in//where the good are damned and the wicked forgiven.... those who don’t have lose and those who don’t have get given more, more, more, more.” Each vocalization of the word more has its own sensuality, depravity, and anger. One could easily pair the dark and theatrical song with a Tim Burton-esque cast of characters that are the scariest because it is realistic.
One of the most upbeat songs on the record is “Older and Taller,” which was the latest single put out from the album. It plays with the idea that things aren’t exactly the way we remember them- “And all the days, they were longer//And the drinks, they were stronger” We remember people as older and taller than they were because we were younger, it would seem. The song has the classic feel of an older song written by Spektor, like that of Far (2009). It has the charm and bounce similar to “Folding Chair” and “The Calculation.” It even ends with a twist- with the lyrics “Enjoy your youth//Sounds like a threat//But I will anyway.”
Her songs have always been stories have been quirky with touch of darkness matched with all different types of music accompanying them. What makes Remember us to Life so different from other Regina Spektor albums is truly the sound quality of the record. Every song has a larger than life production. Many Regina Spektor fans have come to know her through her work in television and film- such as “The Call” from The Chronicle of Narnia: Prince Caspian soundtrack and most recently her cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on Kubo and the Two Strings soundtrack. While each song follows its own story and there is no overall arching concept to Remember us to Life (or any Regina Spektor album ever), the album is as theatrical and epic as a soundtrack while speaking of real life issues.
Listen to: “Bleeding Heart,” “Small Bill$,” “Older and Taller,” “The Trapper and the Furrier”