We haven't seen an LP from Regina Spektor since 2012’s What We Saw from the Cheap Seats. After writing the theme song for “Orange is the New Black” and releasing a few other side projects, she's back again, fierce, whimsical and sage-like as always. Remember Us To Life, her latest album, keeps Spektor's status as unique among contemporaries, but does little to expand her musical or lyrical repertoire. Where Spektor in the past has been fearless both politically and artistically, Remember Us To Life just feels a little stagnant.
The album in some ways is the same Regina Spektor we've known since the breakout Begin To Hope — beats that are choppy but bouncy, her incredibly silky voice floating with impossible ease, singing us songs whose lyrics match the complexity of the music.
But on the whole, Remember Us to Life is less experimental, less justly crazy than her past releases. A few tracks stick out as markedly different from the rest, incorporating electro-pop elements we haven't seen from the artist before. The lyrics of "Bleeding Heart" show a narrator who's sick of an old friend who's constantly feeling sorry for themselves, and this message is juxtaposed next to sugar-pop synth in the background and a refrain of “Never, never mind bleeding heart, bleeding heart…”
This track is just OK, but the one that truly sticks out is “Small Bill$,” which she saves for fourth. For many of us millennials, Spektor was one of the first overtly political musicians we encountered on our iPod nanos. “Small Bill$” is the most obviously political track on the album, but the lyrics of this track don't come close to the sweet-sounding sarcasm behind songs like “Uh-Merica” from Begin to Hope back in 2006. Like lots of her lyrics in the past, “Small Bill$” is critical of consumerism, talking of a man who spent all his money on Cokes and couldn't buy what he really needed. Knowing how critical of George W. Bush Spektor has been in the past, it’s almost surprising she didn't release any tracks that dealt with Donald Trump for the upcoming election.
The rest of the album is similarly nice, but not as cutting edge as Spektor has been in the past. Remember Us To Life will appease longtime fans, but they may be missing some of the wonky sharpness the artist has provided in the past. Some melodies and lyrics seem easy; we know Spektor has more in her than that. This album is both less dark and less light, gray and meandering somewhere in between.
This doesn't negate the fact that Spektor remains an incredible artist who still sticks out among her contemporaries. But Remember Us To Life just sort of keeps her where she was before, not demonstrating real growth or an effort to pull herself into the present.