Album: Regina Spektor, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats (Sire)

Just when you think Regina Spektor is coasting into a song's shallower waters, she'll catch an outsized wave – like the gulping sound in "Open" – which yanks it back into the choppier swell.

Here, the abrupt shifts between ballad placidity and animated angst underscore the theme of changing course in "Small Town Moon", while the eccentric waltz surges in "Firewood" convey the solace of childhood memories. "Don't Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)" reappears as toytown reggae, but the most effective piece here is "How", which sounds like a cross between deep-soul ballad and Albinoni's Adagio, a measured excavation of emotion.

Download: Small Town Moon; How; All the Rowboats

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