THE SOUND OPTION WITH MARCUS HATHCOCK
#16 - Raising the Spektor
Fans of Regina Spektor will find a home with the wistful worship of Kristene DiMarco.
 


Regina Spektor is an art-pop roller coaster ride. The Russian-born "anti-folk" songstress has released six studio albums, two EPs, a live album and 11 singles since coming on the scene in 2001.
 
Known for her airy voice, stylistically diverse singing and songwriting, Spektor's quirky and Starbucks-friendly, piano-driven tunes have served as an artful alternative to the synth-based neo-pop and rap dominating the airwaves. 
 
Perhaps best known for her song "Fidelity," Spektor's biggest hit came with the 2006 release Begin to Hope, which was certified Gold in the U.S. and Canada. Her latest effort, May 2012's What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, already has reached as high as No. 3 on the Billboard album charts. 
 
It looks like Spektor is on the rise. But what's in her infectious hits?
 
Her first hit, "Carbon Monoxide," essentially tells the story of a couple who aims to use the titular gas to kill themselves, to the sound of a soothing piano and vocal combo. The lyrics croon: "They'll just say we're living our whole life in bed / And we'll be in bed be in bed but we'll be oh so very much dead..."
 
Another single released from the Soviet Kitsch album, "Your Honor," is a quirky punk-rock tune that proclaims: "Mary had a little lamb with fleece as white as snow / You've got me and I'm just a common ho." 
 
Many fans became familiar with Spektor with Begin to Hope, which produced the singles "Fidelity", "On the Radio" and "Samson." 
 
"Fidelity" was her breakout hit, with her quirky, drawn-out phrase: "And it breaks my hear-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-art." The song itself is an admission of someone who won't fully love someone as a defense mechanism—a decision that leads her to "get lost" in the sad sounds, music and voices in her head.  
 
"Better" has fairly ambiguous lyrics such as "Born like sisters to this world in a town where blood ties are only blood." It's a up-beat song that communicates the singer's desire to help an ailing friend, but the overall message seems cryptic. "Samson" refers to the Judge of Israel in a fictitious story that introduces the singer as the long-haired strongman's first lover. 
 
Fast-forward to Spektor's most recent project, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats—released late May 2012—and we find a much more innocuous project. The lead single, "All the Rowboats," is a peculiar pondering of how museum pieces must feel trapped and unused. The darker themes deployed by Spektor in previous releases aren't to be found here which is a good sign.
 
But what's an "anti-folk" fan to do if they want to praise God with that kind of style? 
 
Kristene DiMarco (formerly known as Kristene Mueller) is a singer-songwriter within Bethel Church's stable of powerhouse worship leaders. 
 
On her first nationally distributed solo album, Safe Place, DiMarco shows her artistic chops with 12 artfully composed songs about living life with Jesus. 
 
"I think one word that describes me is thankful," DiMarco says. "God has made my dreams come true so much so that I have to dream ridiculously now. I want to make music that gives hope to cities, countries and whole people groups... Why not?"
 
Listeners of Safe Place immediately are taken with the quirky, Spektor-esque introductory song, "Say Goodbye"—an upbeat, piano-driven tune about leaving behind the old life to follow Jesus. "What you need is found in the heart of Me," declares the second half of the chorus.
 
"Deanna Song" is a nice piano-driven, harmony-rich pop song that sings, "Show me that your glory dwells in the ordinary." The song "Believer" lauds the way God is cheering for us and believes in us, with simmering organs and xylophone hits. 
 
"Paint Me a Picture" invites God to reveal some of the greatness He's preparing for those who love Him. The chorus brings about some of DiMarco's highest notes, drawing instant comparisons to Spektor. "Oh my soul, fix your eyes on His face," she exhorts in the Spektorian bridge. 
 
"A Lonely Carpenter" is a mid-tempo piano-and-acoustic pop song that talks about Jesus' time on the Earth. It's a storytelling kind of song that's an easy listen. "Eyes to see / Give me ears to hear..." she prays in the bridge.
 
DiMarco captures the Spektor-class ballad (with perhaps a touch of Norah Jones) with "Hope", "Holly Dear" and "A Long Time Ago." 
 
Like all of these comparisons, there certainly are differences between DiMarco and Spektor. For one, DiMarco seems to find a bit more of a musical niche in the acoustic- and piano-driven worship tunes, whereas Spektor prides herself in trying to make each song stylistically unique. DiMarco's vocals don't really do backflips range-wise from song to song, and there aren't any funny vocalizations—and both are things for which Spektor is known.
 
But Spektor fans who are looking for a new flavor of worship will find a home with DiMarco, whose light, airy indie-style voice and unorthodox worship songwriting provides much to like. 
 
These songs are singable, and are easy listens for road trips, house chores or anything in between.
 
While Spektor's tunes aren't the most corrosive out there, it's nice to know there's an "anti-folk" artist out there who can sing God's praises in such a charming and refreshing way.

MORE SOUND OPTIONS:

NRT Senior Editor Marcus Hathcock has been a newspaper reporter, an editor and now Community Life Director for East Hill Church in Gresham, Ore. He's also been involved in opera, acappella, a CCM group and now is a songwriter and one of the worship leaders at East Hill. Follow his journey at www.mheternal.com.

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