Over ten years ago, Suzanne Vega hit a terribly sexy groove with an album called Nine Objects of Desire that made me seek out every CD she has done since then. She’s kept us waiting for six years for her new studio effort, but it’s such vintage Vega that the reward is well worth the wait.
The first thing to note on Beauty & Crime is that producer Jimmy Hogarth and mixer Tchad Blake have tuned the album’s tracks entirely to suit Vega’s rather inflexible, breathy voice. With the sonic help, Vega is freed up to focus on enunciating the layers behind her lyrics. Yet Hogarth and Blake also manage to seed each song with finely crafted arrangements and subtle hooks that make them musically interesting.
Although Vega uses a large canvas to record her ruminations, her most touching songs are those that are personal. On “Ludlow Street” she quietly mourns the passing of her brother: “I find each stoop and doorway’s incomplete/without you there”.
On the superbly produced “Bound”, she seems to be confirming her longtime friend Paul Mills’s continuing interest in her after her divorce from Michael Froom in 2001. On “As You Are Now” she manages – against all odds – to fit in a parent’s love for her child in four sweet verses.