Regina Spektor ‘Home, before and after’ review: heartbreaking art-punk

Regina Spektor has built a career from creating tightly wound, beautiful songs of love, life and death. Her music is intimate enough to feel like a friend speaking directly to you, but robust enough for the singer to share a stage with the likes of The Strokes and Kings Of Leon; The Russian-American artist has always walked that fine line between poetry and power. New album ‘Home, before and after’ sees her continue to straddle both worlds comfortably while also injecting plenty of risky newness.

It’s been six years since Spektor last released an album, the sombre and earnest ‘Remember Us To Life’, but there’s not a moment of ‘Home, before and after’ that feels like she’s been sat at home, overthinking then reworking this 10- song collection. There’s a relaxed drive to her most expansive, funny and heartbreaking album yet.

Of course, her eighth album is littered with the haunted folk songs we’ve come to expect from Spektor. The piano-driven ‘Raindrops’ is a delicate declaration of blunt longing while the apologetic ‘Loveology’ is a shimmering chunk of quiet self-reflection. She’s played both song live numerous times over the years, but they’ve finally found a permanent place on ‘Home, before and after’. The rest of the record however sees Spektor pushing herself into vibrant, previously unexplored territory.

The urgent funk of ‘Up The Mountain’ blends the emo-pop of Halsey’s debut album ‘Badlands’ with the cartoon escapism of Gorillaz, while ‘What Might’ve Been’ toys with flamboyant surrealism. The nearly nine-minute ‘Spacetime Fairytale’ is a fearless foray into sci-fi existentialism while ‘Sugar Man’ is absurdist pop in the vein of Self Esteem or St. Vincent. It feels daring without losing the bruised heart that’s driven all of Spektor’s previous work.

The orchestral ‘Becoming All Alone’ is driven by empathy and the desire for change (“You have a heart, why don’t you use it?”) While on the sparse ‘Through A Door’ she indulges in tragedy, but still offers a glimmer of hope. “Without darkness, is there light?She asks. Throughout the record, she tries to reconcile the two.

As emotional as ‘Home, before and after’ is, there’s a playful, punk attitude to every experimental flourish. This is a colorful, energized collection of work from an artist who could comfortably stay in her own lane, but chooses not to. With twee, indie sleaze and ’00s alt-rock all finding new footholds in 2022, Spektor finds joy in creating a world all of her own.

Details

Release date: June 24

Record label: Warner Records

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