Regina Spektor Soviet Kitsch

Though it was her duet with the Strokes that first drew everyone’s attention to Regina Spektor, she will soon shake off that association and be known for this wildly original effort. Born in Moscow, but raised from the age of nine in the Bronx, this talented visionary of Russian Jewish descent caught the ear of Strokes producer Gordon Raphael, who became a fan and produced Soviet Kitsch. Originally released in 2003 on Raphael’s Shoplifter label and picked up by Sire after the word spread, Spektor’s third album (two earlier independent records are available on her website) is sparsely arranged primarily with Regina and a piano or Rhodes, and sometimes with a supporting cast of subtle strings or guitars with drums (with the exception of the one standout fuzzy rocker, "Your Honor,” which shows another side of her potential). Most of the time it’s Spektor’s voice that holds your attention with a vocal delivery that drifts from sublime and emotive to awkward and strident. While she comes across as a bit of an oddball, she isn’t afraid to address important issues, on "Chemo Limo,” a surrealistic number about living with cancer that captures her relevance in New York’s deteriorating anti-folk scene. Since this record’s been available for two years now, let’s hope she doesn’t sit on it too much longer because those already aware of her remarkable and distinctive talent are waiting impatiently for album number four. (Sire)