Suzanne Vega has had an envious catalog of albums to boast during her two decade (and counting) career. Since 1985, she’s virtually been one of the main faces of the folk genre, although her music hasn’t been confined to a simple acoustics. Vega has never shied away from experiments in production and is perhaps one of the few artists who have experimented with it with such success. Ask anyone you know and the chances are high that they’ve heard of ‘Luka’ or ‘Tom’s Diner’ – if not by title, then certainly when you start humming the latter’s inescapable melody. It was after D.N.A.‘s remix of ‘Tom’s Diner’ first appeared in the early nineties that Vega had quickly become a household name.
In 1992, Vega’s fourth album, 99.9 F, was released and it became Vega’s first, major foray into reshaping her sound. Along with producer Mitchell Froom, Vega created an album infused with electronic programming and synthesized beats, yet still managed to exude a folk-ish feel.
Four years later on 1996’s Nine Objects Of Desire, Vega continued the experimental streak with Froom, although to a lesser degree.
In 2001, Vega’s Songs In Red And Gray marked as some of her best songwriting to date. The album was written after a divorce with Froom and many of its songs metaphorically touch on the separation.
Perhaps the soothing power of Vega’s soft voice or the consistent, top-notch songwriting is the winning formula for each of her songs, each one a memorable journey. Whatever it is, that formula continues with the gorgeous Beauty & Crime, Vega’s seventh studio album and first album in six years.
Inspired by New York, the city in which Vega was raised and continues to reside, Beauty & Crime blends memories of 9/11, love, sadness and the charm of the Big Apple in its eleven strong tracks.
Standouts are bountiful, including ‘New York Is A Woman,’ in which Vega represents the city as a woman who is beautiful, captivating, but ultimately, hard to please. And on ‘Ludlow Street,’ the singer recounts the memory of her late brother, Tim Vega, to whom the entire album is dedicated.
A heavy arsenal of musicians lend their talents to the album, including KT Tunstall (who provides backing vocals to the album’s opener, ‘Zephyr & I’ and to the track, ‘Frank & Ava), and even Vega’s young daughter, Ruby Froom (who sings on ‘Ludlow Street’ and ‘Unbound’).
Beauty & Crime is an exceptional and elegant album which fits beautifully in today’s current stream of music. It’s clear after listening, that Vega has masterfully crafted an album her brother and her many fans would be proud of.