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Regina Spektor Is Grateful for the Bunnies and Thunderstorms

Over the past two decades, fans of Regina Spektor have come to rely on the indie-pop musician for a few things: a mixture of whimsical and devastating lyrics; high, piercing vocals; a gorgeous piano; the sort of worldbuilding you find in a short story or fable; and a sense of humor.

On her latest album Home, before and after, released on June 24, Spektor delivers these hallmarks with some delightfully weird surprises and an expanded musical palette. It’s the sort of experimentation one would expect following her previous 2016 record Remember Us to Life, which found the 42-year-old deploying a full orchestra to create an epic, melodramatic soundscape.

“I think it was the most involved, arrangement-wise,” Spektor tells The Daily Beast about Home, before and after. “There’s a lot of orchestral arrangement on a lot of the songs. And there’s also a lot of sound design-y, soundscape-y, textural things.”

Where her last record felt elegant and lush, the variety of sounds on Home, before and after are a bit chaotic but still compelling. For example, the opening track “Becoming All Alone,” where Spektor relates to God about feeling lonely, begins with some somber piano chords reminiscent of earlier ballads like “Samson” and “Eet” before launching into an abrupt dance beat. “Up the Mountain” is another strange but amusing adventure where Spektor oscillates between rapping and her usual operatic singing. At one point, the song “What Might’ve Been,” where Spektor lists things that “go together,” sounds like a sci-fi movie score.

Lyrics take unexpected turns as well, particularly on the song “One Man’s Prayer,” where Spektor recites the inner monologue of a pathetically desperate, lonely man that’s equally hilarious and unsettling (“‘Cause if I won’t get to meet God and I won’t get to be a god then at least, God, let me get talked to by a girl.”) But leave it to Spektor, an expert storyteller, to casually throw a satirical incel anthem on an album and make it work.

Home, before and after, Spektor’s eighth studio album, will certainly provide a level of assurance to listeners who fear the singer-songwriter might be leaning into a more palatable, pop-y direction given her mainstream success as an indie artist. However, Spektor, who rebuts the idea that she even has a signature sound, claims that the punk spirit of the record wasn’t calculated.

“I feel like I went to very new places sonically with this record, but I’ve always felt that with every record,” Spektor says. “You would probably be able to know better if it’s just in my imagination that I went further sonically.”

Home, before and after’s peculiar vibe feels appropriate given the unusual—but now quite normal—circumstances surrounding its making. The Russian-born New Yorker says that she and her husband, guitarist Jack Dishel, were “accidentally” living in Los Angeles for a few years working on their respective projects when she struck a friendship with Grammy-winning producer John Congleton. The pair teamed up for the first time on the song “One Little Soldier” for the 2019 film Bombshell—a collaboration that seemed well overdue given the array of indie artists Congleton has produced for. When Spektor went back home to New York, she realized she wanted Congleton as the sole co-producer on her ninth studio album.

Spektor, who’s known to rotate producers for projects, was thrilled by the “element of newness” and what she could learn from Congleton. But like most Americans in the spring of 2020, COVID threw a wrench in their plans.

“On April 1, 2020, he was going to fly into New York a couple of days before and we were going to start working at Electric Lady [Studios],” she says. “We had time booked. And it was going to be like a regular record, you know? Cut to, of course, a couple of weeks before then—like, full lockdown, and the world changed.”

Like everyone else whose jobs remained doable via a computer, Spektor and Congleton continued creating the album remotely. In 2022, a bicoastal or even transnational working situation between an artist and producer is extremely common in the music industry. But for the more traditional Spektor, the distance was initially nerve-wracking.

“He actually told me, ‘You know, a tremendous amount of people work remotely,’” she recalls.

“I remember talking to him just pacing up and down some road upstate being like, ‘I don’t think I could work like this,’” Spektor continues. “I’ve always been in the studio. I’m so hands-on. I’m such a control freak. How will this ever work? And he’s like, ‘You don’t understand. People literally send me a voice memo. And they just say, turn this into a song.’”

I’ve always been in the studio. I’m so hands-on. I’m such a control freak. How will this ever work?

Spektor, a mother of two, was also pregnant with her second son at the start of the pandemic and during the album-making process, which prompted her and her family to temporarily move out of the city to upstate New York.

“COVID safety felt very, very good,” she says. “I don’t think I could’ve made the record without that.”

In addition to the privilege of being isolated, getting to work out of Dreamland Recording Studio, a converted church in Ulster County, made for a particularly idyllic work space for Spektor.

The singer jokingly compares the tightly enclosed environment of a typical studio to working in the “basement of the Capitol building.” However, she says the openness of the repurposed sanctuary, the people who would stop by to reminisce on the weddings they held there, for instance, and the nature surrounding it felt particularly inspiring.

“Just being able to step out and see a bunny hopping—that was a really big deal,” she says. “We would be recording, and we’d have to stop because there was like a raccoon on the roof or a squirrel. And I loved hearing the thunderstorms. ”

Spektor, who recently completed a Broadway residency, has always been enthusiastic about performing her music for an audience. Likewise, she left little time between her new album’s release and touring, performing her first show in Napa, California, with special guest Norah Jones on June 25. In July, she’ll also be making what will most likely be an emotional return to Carnegie Hall. This past April, she was meant to do a show at the Manhattan venue that was ultimately canceled due the passing of her father.

“So far, I’ve been practicing all the ones I can play solo,” she says about her upcoming shows. “I love playing ‘Loveology.’ I love playing ‘Becoming Not Alone.’ I’ve been loving playing “Spacetime Fairytale” just in my room. That one feels kind of like walking on a tightrope.”

“Spacetime Fairytale,” the seventh track on Home, before and after, is as playful and fantastical as the title suggests. Clocking in at almost nine minutes, the track instantly transports you to a seat at a ballet or an opera with its thunderous orchestra.

“Doing that in front of people has got a little element of risk,” she says. “But I kind of like that. That’s one of the benefits of not [being] a classical musician. You know, it’s not a recital. It’s fucking rock and roll.”

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Burlesque Performer Organizes Symbolic Burial for Artists’ Pandemic Losses

Denver burlesque performer and producer Melissa May, known by the stage name Polka Dottie, originally had a straightforward name for her upcoming event: “Colorado Artists: Let’s Mourn the Opportunities Lost to COVID Together.” Although she changed the name to Ghost Light, the event’s message remains the same, and artists from around Colorado will gather at HQ on Monday, May 16, to showcase their art and have a symbolic burial for the artistic opportunities lost during the pandemic.

For many artists, those opportunities aren’t coming back. “I had all this momentum going, all these things planned. And then it stopped,” May reflects.

She says that during quarantine, her motivation and creativity came to a halt. It wasn’t until two years later that her passion for art served as motivation to keep going after losing so much.

“After discussing this topic with several other artists, I realized that the world hasn’t made time or space for us to mourn what could have been, so I wanted to create that opportunity for those desiring closure,” May explains.

She began contacting artists across Colorado to partake in the event. She got the inspiration for the new name from ghost lights, the single bulbs that theaters use to light a stage when it is unoccupied. Ghost lights were also used as a symbol of hope during the lockdown.

Any type of artist is invited to join, from drag performers to painters, sculptors, actors, singers, dancers, tattoo artists and more. The artists are invited to share their losses in a eulogy of sorts, and to bring works to display. During the time artists will be given to speak, items will be shared, and explanations of their meaning will be presented. Being able to speak about these items out loud and share them with others will be a crucial part of the mourning and closure that May hopes to bring to artists with the event.

“Don’t take the arts for granted,” she says, urging the general public to help support artists during these hard times in any way possible. Whether through financial or promotional avenues, any amount of support counts.

“We stayed home, we stayed brave, and we kept the light on. But we never got closure. Let’s create it together,” May says.

Ghost Light, 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 16, at HQ, 60 South Broadway. Entry is free. For updates, follow @misspolkadottie on Instagram.

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Top Christian worship songs and sermon topics in 2021 revealed

Attendees raise their hands in worship during Franklin Graham’s Route 66 “God Loves You” tour in Springfield, Missoui, on Sept. 23, 2021. |

After reviewing 2.7 million songs churches sang and 91,000 sermons delivered in 2021 amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the church technology company Faithlife has published its annual report revealing top worship songs and sermon trends of the last year.

The maker of the Logos Bible Software released its 2021Year-End Song & Sermon Report last week. Faithlife highlights worship music trends based on data from over 705,000 presentations using its Faithlife Proclaim Church Presentation Software. The report’s insight into the most covered topics in sermons is based on data from sermons posted to Faithlife Sermons. 

According to the report, the most popular worship song of the last year was the 2016 song “Build My Life” by Pat Barrett.

The first verse of the song, which was second-most popular in 2020 and earned the top spot in 2019, goes:

“Worthy of every song we could ever sing

Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring

Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe

We live for You.”

The second-most popular song in 2021 was the 2015 song “Way Maker” by Sinach, the top song in 2020.

“Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters was at No. 3. “Goodness of God” by Bethel Music/Jenn Johnson finished fourth, and “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” by Matt Redman claimed the No. 5 spot. Chris Tomlin’s 2004 hit “How Great is Our God” came in No. 6.

“Altogether the average age of the top 20 songs is [just over 11] years, driven down by ‘How Great Thou Art’ from 1949,” the report reads. “The top 10 songs are even younger with an average age of 8.6 years.”

Faithlife notes that the “youngest” song on its top-20 list, 2019’s “Graves into Gardens” by Elevation Worship/Brandon Lake, was the only new addition to the list of the top songs in 2021, finishing at No. 9. 

The report finds that hymns continue to be among the top worship songs during services.

“How Great Thou Art” was the 13th most popular in 2021, while “Lord I Need You” placed No. 14 and “Amazing Grace [My Chains Are Gone]” placed No. 16. “Cornerstone” ranked No. 17.

The sermons delivered in 2021 followed the most common topics of 2020. But some topics became more popular in 2021, including the No. 1 ranked topic, eschatology/resurrection, which was six times more popular than the previous year.

The topic of grace (No. 2) was four times more popular.

Other topics that increased in popularity were family and children, creation/renewal, philosophy, revival, cults, compromise, persecution and hospitality.

“These topics demonstrate the internal and external tensions many churches are facing,” the report details. “Torn between fear, hope, and simply surviving, preachers dedicated many of their sermons to helping their congregations understand how Scripture applied to their struggles.”

The top trending Bible passage was John 3:16, which states: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The second-most used Bible passage was Matthew 28:18–20. 

The passage states: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

Other popular passages include Ephesians 2:8, Acts 1:8 and John 1:1.   

Some passages saw a significant increase in their uses in 2021. Ephesians 3:14-21 saw a 26% increase last year, according to a statement shared with The Christian Post. Other trending passages include John 17:6-19, John 14:8-21, Acts 2:14-39Acts 2:40-47, and 2 Timothy 2:1-13.  

“While there aren’t many surprises in the 10 most used verses, Faithlife discovered that, of the 31,102 verses in the Bible, 29,321 verses were referred to in at least one sermon in 2021 (94%),” the statement reads. 

Faithlife CEO Vik Rajagopal said that the data shows how church leaders met the needs of their communities and congregants amid another challenging year during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The trending preaching topics demonstrate that even as the world navigated the challenges of the COVID pandemic, churches delivered God’s truth about the hope found in Jesus,” Rajagopal said.