Since Regina Spektor’s 2012 LP, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, she has released the rocking theme song to Orange Is the New Black (“You’ve Got Time”) and an impeccably phrased cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – two moves that might suggest an eccentric artist pushing toward the mainstream. Her fifth album, full of brilliant songcraft per usual, performs a similar balancing act between the familiar and the far-out.
Spektor’s skill at storytelling compression remains stunning. “Grand Hotel” hilariously reimagines Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest as a W-franchised portal to hell, and “Bleeding Heart” seems like an amiably boilerplate wallflower shout-out until it becomes multiple stories about outsider mindsets. On the Beatlesque “Older and Taller,” Spektor addresses aging with as much melodic wistfulness as “She’s Leaving Home,” an effect highlighted by string arrangements and spiked with curveball bons mots, such as, “All the lies on your résumé/ Have become the truth by now.” There are moments like that all over the album, each delivered wryly but lovingly, sanctifying its world of underdogs and dreamers.