You might have shrugged your shoulders at Passion Pit and Talib Kweli, but chances are you’re already familiar with the music of Dillo Day headliner Regina Spektor.
No stranger to television sets, Spektor has had her songs featured in Grey’s Anatomy, Veronica Mars and Brothers and Sisters, and she even sang her own version of the Weeds theme song “Little Boxes” during the show’s second season. More recently, Spektor had two songs in the soundtrack for (500) Days of Summer, including one of her biggest hits, “Us.”
But Spektor’s music career goes back much further than chronicling the movie relationship of Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Born in Moscow to a family of musicians, Spektor and her family immigrated to the United States when she was just 9 years old. Studying classical piano in her youth, Spektor wrote songs all throughout her teenage years. So it’s no surprise that, in the spirit of DIY, she self-released her first album, 11:11, a 12-song collection of just her and her piano, upon graduating from SUNY Purchase.
Even though she signed a label deal shortly after for her sophomore album, 2004’s Soviet Kitsch, it wasn’t until 2006’s Begin To Hope that she really expanded her sound – and began to get mainstream attention. Songs such as the charming “On The Radio” and the perky “Fidelity” built on her piano skills with guitars, strings and synthesizers, although judging by her live performance, she’s probably content with just a beatbox.
Spektor’s latest album Far, which came out last June, fine-tunes the sound she’s been developing since her college years. Working with a handful of producers including Mike Elizondo, mostly known for his work with Dr. Dre and Eminem but who worked on Rilo Kiley’s latest album, the album includes foot-tappers like “The Calculation” and the oddly titled “Eet.” Both stick mostly to piano, but Spektor injects her personality into every song.
Storytelling is just as important to her music as her piano skills are. “Chemo Limo,” a six-minute epic off her second album Soviet Kitsch, dramatically switches from a slow and ominous ballad to an upbeat and strangely optimistic tale of a woman’s struggle with cancer. Even when asking some tough questions about God on Far’s “Laughing With,” Spektor handles sensitive character studies with insight and humor.
But as far as piano songstresses go, Spektor is also pretty quirky. “Folding Chair,” another highlight off of Far, shows just how bizarre she can get. Not only is it a love letter to a complete stranger on the beach, but it also has Spektor’s best dolphin impression. If that’s not enough to get you excited, we’re not sure what will. But seeing as how Regina Spektor and Dillo Day become trending topics on Twitter in the Chicago area in the aftermath of the announcement, we’re sure Northwestern students are already getting pumped.