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  • Writer's pictureChiara Greco

Album Review: Regina Spektor's Soviet Kitsch

Spektor’s Soviet Kitsch is an indefinable collage of womanhood, love and self

photo credit: album cover courtesy of Spotify

Chiara Greco, Nutgraf Press Creator

 

disclaimer: this article was written, submitted and graded for credit as part of course requirement (this article was written in February 2023)


Picture this. A girl in her mid-20s, dyed hair, maybe a bright blue or faded pink with micro-bangs. She has a perfectly imperfect attitude. Maybe she wears cutesy clothes, things with buttons and collars and long socks. Men often tell her she’s “different” or “not like other girls” – this is exactly who is listening to Regina Spektor’s Soviet Kitsch. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl in everyone’s imagination, except she has depth. If Spektor’s music were to be personified, it would be this girl and that’s not a bad thing. Her music, and this album specifically, is filled with an emotional female-rage that could only come about from being pegged as this type of girl for most of her career. But, more than anything her album Soviet Kitsch tells the story of what happens when a girl like this is more manic than dream-like.


The anxiety-inducing harmony of a classical piano with the calming ringing of Spektor’s voice makes Soviet Kitsch feel like one of a kind. Spektor, a Russian-born pianist and musician, combines the anti-folk New York poet aesthetic of Bob Dylan and Patti Smith with the attitude and tone of Fiona Apple to create a Manic Pixie Dream Girls go-to playlist. Soviet Kitsch is a mismatch of style and feeling, with no real cohesion besides the piano being the one constant thread tying each single together.


A rhythmic heartbeat opens up the album, introducing the listener to Spektor’s inner world, and then comes her signature piano. The heartbeat, piano, vocals and lyrics are introduced one by one, so as to let the listener become accustomed to each sound before we follow along to the story. And that is exactly what the opening single “Ode to Divorce” is, a story. Spektor’s first single on the album sets the tone for what's to come: poetic loneliness, girl-like rage and lyrics so individualized that they become relatable to the collective. The rest of the songs on the album follow this similar formula, but there is no one takeaway message. Each song tells a vastly different story.


Songs like “Poor Little Rich Boy,” “Flowers,” “Us,” “Someday” and “Sailor Song” explore the intensely personal yet collective experience of woman-hood and bad breakups and self-acceptance through love. But, the real star of each of them is the piano, it has a voice of its own. Known for her piano skills, Spektor lets the instrument do much of the singing. On the other hand, “Carbon Monoxide,” “Your Honor,” “Ghost of Corporate Future” and “Chemo Limo” are more experimental, commenting on issues of the time, a classic trope in punk and folk-inspired music. The mix of ballad-like verses with spoken word poetry create a blend of sound and style that makes Spektor’s music indefinable. Each song is drastically different, and yet the album as a whole still works.


At its core, Soviet Kitsch is a mess of piano ballads and lyrical outbursts, but it's balanced and captivating, it draws the audience in and forces them to listen.


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