Regina Spektor’s vocal and piano skills are instantly recognisable in every track to date. Her lyrics, her melodies, her distinct voice and narratives; all iconic yet unknown to many. But what can Remember Us To Life offer where What We Saw From The Cheap Seats cannot? Spektor is ‘Older and Taller’ now, and unlike previous albums, uses purely new tracks. Her new lens through the world – motherhood – is ingrained throughout the album and her newfound wisdom, along with its responsibilities and anxieties, often presents itself through the discourse of time.
But Spektor’s references to time are not new. Far’s lyrics “time is all around / except inside my clock” and “no-one laughs at God in a hospital” demonstrate how it is a common narrative concern. And though used often, her time-centred lyrics still conjure a theme which is, indeed, timeless. This is because Spektor is an eccentric and skilful storyteller, which will make her a great mother as well as lyricist. She’s a lover of defamiliarization, allowing us to see the ‘Two Birds’ or the ‘Grand Hotel’ in a way we have never before. She pictures and portrays the familiar as unfamiliar, or vice versa, making her not only a musician but an artist. Her songcraft and ability to compress the lengthiest of stories into just a few minutes means we found ourselves not merely hearing but listening, perhaps in a similar way to ‘Bleeding Heart’s hopeless wallflower, “listening to that song / ‘cause it hurts just right.”
After recording ‘You’ve Got Time’ for Orange is the New Black, Spektor’s influences of time are reinforced from the opening track, scattered with lines of a time-captive, “you serve your time drinking all night long, staring at the walls of your jail-like home”. ‘Bleeding Heart’, though seemingly flippant, repeats “never mind your bleeding heart” to (perhaps unintentionally) enforce the notion that time is the greatest healer, that memories dwindle and bruises heal.
Spektor is contradictory, fearing the loss of time and racing the clock in ‘Small Bill$’, “better get a head start / start running”, but conforming back to a notion of infinite time (all around) in ‘Older and Taller’, “enjoy your youth / sounds like a threat / but I will anyway.” Her ongoing conflict arguably offers no closure and in ‘Obselete’, an in-the-moment yet possibly ephemeral lament, she states “this is how I feel right now / obsolete manuscript”. As one of the closing songs, it is surprising to find a whispery voice feeling lost and unwanted. Its six-and-a-half minutes of echoes and emptiness, in relation to Spektor’s life-changing event of motherhood, has a jolting sense of sadness and displacement.
In contrast, ‘The Trapper and the Furrier’ has an eeriness that captures Spektor’s adoration of the gothic. Beginning a-capella, the discordant track builds along with hysterical breaths of “more”. Her orchestra rises and falls like a timeworn rollercoaster, enhancing the eccentricity of the song and reminding its listener that Spektor is a versatile and unconventional artist. Referring to time once more in ‘The Visit’, Spektor concludes her album on something she craves; beginnings. Whether this is to Begin to Hope or to begin to remember, as the title suggests, she’s “catching every moment that went by / to make it last” until she begins again.