Soviet Kitsch

On her major-label debut, Russian-born, Bronx, N.Y.-raised, classically trained Regina Spektor emerges as the fresh-faced piano balladeer of the downtown New York set.

On her major-label debut, Russian-born, Bronx, N.Y.-raised, classically trained Regina Spektor emerges as the fresh-faced piano balladeer of the downtown New York set. Spektor is best-known for her association with the Strokes—she shared the mic with Julian Casablancas on the band's B-side "Modern Girls & Old Fashion Men," and Strokes producer Gordon Raphael is behind the boards for "Soviet Kitsch." But her muse is as rooted in Tori Amos as it is in trashy post-punk. Tracks like "Ode to Divorce" and "Ghost of Corporate Future" brim with collegiate-style confessional gusto. Standout cut "Us" is home to a Carnegie Hall-inspired arrangement that features Spektor at the keys and the bouncing accompaniment of a string quartet. The tune embodies Spektor's central appeal: a girlish piano-pop naïveté crossed with an East Village rock sensibility.—BG