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Regina Spektor 

What we saw from the cheap seats (sire)

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On her fourth album, Spektor ditches the producer superteam of Far for Mike Elizondo solo, and together they've created a bittersweet sampling of her special brand of cerebral pop. With her piano at the core, Spektor---who NPR aptly called an "oddball sentimentalist"---sings of loves lost and treasured, lives wasted and resurrected and it's mostly beautiful but periodically unsettling, as when she repeatedly gasps for breath in "Open." The best example of her powers is the single "All the Rowboats," with its machine-gun percussion and visions of "all the rowboats in oil paintings, they keep trying to row away." Turn it up when the sun goes down.

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