What We Saw from the Cheap Seats is the sixth studio album by American alternative singer-songwriter Regina Spektor.
The album was recorded in Los Angeles during the summer of 2011 with Mike Elizondo, who has worked with artists such as Dr. Dre, Eminem, Fiona Apple, Nelly Furtado, Maroon 5 and Alanis Morissette.
What We Saw from the Cheap Seats is a collection of new material along with the very first studio recordings of several of Spektor’s older live songs.
“Spiking piano-driven songs of heartbreak with comic turns of phrase, cartoon voices and beatboxing outbursts, Regina Spektor has become her generation’s Joni Mitchell– a singer-songwriter who nail-guns emotional truths between wisecracks. Her latest, even tighter and more flamboyant than 2009’s Far, may be her best. Exhibit A: “Firewood,” which treats mortal illness (a recurring theme for her) with elegant surrealism, imagining a piano used for kindling while boldly telling a comrade to “Rise from your cold hospital bed/I tell you, you’re not dying.” Elsewhere, “Ballad of a Politician” is sharp satire, instructing a handshaking officeholder to “Shake it, shake it, baby!” Even apparent novelty songs carry a payload. “Oh Marcello” is a Mafioso narrative with outrageous accents and real pathos; “Open” employs a hysterical gasp for air as a percussive vocal device, to unnervingly powerful effect. “All the Rowboats,” which denounces museums as “public mausoleums,” is telling, coming from a classical-music defector. But more so is “Small Town Moon,” with its mouthful of “baby baby”s and “Whoo!”s, working a delicious metaphor for pursuing your own muse, damn the torpedoes. Here’s hoping Spektor never stops” – ***1/2, Will Hermes, Rolling Stone May 2012
“Regina Spektor has come a mighty long way from the grotty East Village bars of the anti-folk scene at which she first started plying her hiccupping, jazz-garnished piano pop trade in at the start of the millennium. Yet even though her sixth album, ‘What We Saw From The Cheap Seats’, was recorded in the glossier surrounds of Los Angeles, on the cover she’s sporting a grandiose military-esque hat atop her ringlets, just like on her first major label record, 2004’s ‘Soviet Kitsch’. In another nod to her past she’s rehashed ‘Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’ for this album, from 2002’s self-released ‘Songs’.
She’s done this before of course, when ‘Samson’ was swiped from the same record to go on 2006’s ‘Begin To Hope’. But why? “These songs come back because they’ve been on a really sparse record,” Spektor explained to NME last month. “I feel like I need to produce them properly, and I can’t rest until that’s done.” It’s true that the new version of ‘Don’t Leave Me…’ is a more polished, brass-boasting beast than the original, but it’s not the most sensational song here, despite being picked as the record’s second single.
As usual, it’s Spektor’s unforced way with a ballad – the sort that will have sensitive young women sobbing into their iPods on the last bus home – that cuts to the emotional quick. The elegant ‘Firewood’ is deceptively simple, managing to skip the schmaltz even when Spektor morphs into a wise auntie, brandishing a tissue and cup of sugary tea, promising: “Everyone knows you’re going to love/Though there’s still no cure for crying”. As remarkable is ‘How’, which is one bottle of Cristal away from being a ’90s R&B belter. Close your eyes and you can imagine Mariah crooning it in a multi-million dollar music video involving candelabras and corsetry while pointing to the sky. In Spektor’s hands it’s not a flashy exercise in the high art of cringe, but a welcoming salvo of true romance” – 8/10, Leonie Cooper, NME
1. Small Town Moon
2. Oh Marcello
3. Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)
5. Patron Saint
7. All the Rowboats
8. Ballad of a Politician
10. The Party
All songs written by Spektor except 2 – Spektor w/ interpolation by Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus, and Gloria Caldwell (“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”)
Regina Spektor: vocals, piano (1-10), keyboards (2-10), marimba (3), co-producer, songwriter
Mike Elizondo: producer, bass (1, 3, 5, 7-10), upright bass (2, 4, 6), electric guitar (1, 6, 7), acoustic guitars (11), programming (3, 5, 7)
Aaron Sterling: drums (1, 3-7, 9), percussion (1, 5, 7), marimba (3)
Jay Bellerose: drums (2, 7, 10), percussion (2, 10), bongos (10)
Danny T. Levin: trumpet (3)
David Moyer: baritone and tenor saxophone (3)
Jack Dishel: vocals (3, 5)
John Daversa: trumpet (10)