A Star Turn Spawns 'Samson'

Friday's Pick

  • Song: "Samson"
  • Artist: Regina Spektor
  • CD: Begin to Hope
  • Genre: Pop

As a fiercely independent and idiosyncratic singer/songwriter who plays the piano, Regina Spektor draws easy comparisons to Tori Amos. But her work feels less remote and more versatile, thanks in large part to a singular songwriting voice that spans genres and personas with grace and apparent ease.

Regina Spektor, in the midst of a full-blown star turn.

Regina Spektor, in the midst of a full-blown star turn on Begin to Hope. Christopher Frederick & Adria Petty hide caption

itoggle caption Christopher Frederick & Adria Petty

Her first album recorded for widespread distribution — its three predecessors were self-released, though the marvelous Soviet Kitsch received a high-profile reissue last year — the new Begin to Hope finds the Russian-born performer in the midst of a full-blown star turn. On "Samson," the album's most elegantly lovely song, Spektor uses the story of Samson as a jumping-off point for a poignant rumination on disappointment, aging and obsolescence.

For all its thematic ambition and Biblical allusions, "Samson" functions best as a subtle character sketch, but it also makes a grand showcase for Spektor's knockout arrangement. When a wave of minor-key synths rolls in during the sweetly melancholy chorus — just as she hits the words, "Your hair was long when we first met" — the resulting sound is moving to a degree that's practically paralyzing.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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