Like the others I’ve been posting, this review ran in Bitch back in 2007.
Beauty and Crime
Tegan and Sara, Catpower, Joanna Newsome, Mirah —intelligent, heartfelt tweeness is as hip as its ever been. This is good news for Suzanne Vega, who, on her new album, comes across as oh-so-2007 without updating her sound at all. You expect well-crafted, shimmery pop from a Suzanne Vega album, and that’s what you get.
Which isn’t to say that the album is boring or monotonous. Vega doesn’t stray far from her formula, but she varies things enough to hold your attention. Her lyrical concerns range from dreamy nostalgia (“Ludlow Street”), to dreamy romance (“Bound”), to dreamy politics (“Angel’s Doorway”), to all three at once (“Pornographer’s Dream”). And she manages to be musically eclectic in a quiet way that’s thoroughly charming. You might miss it the first time through, but“Zephyr Street” takes its riff from “Smells Like Teen Spirit”; “Pornographer’s Dream” is bossa nova, “Unbound” is edges towards a club beat. .
My favorite song, though, is “As You Are Now.” Vega’s vocals are less mannered, and the production is a bit more polished, but otherwise it sounds like it could have come off her debut. Moreover, there’s none of the precious urbanity that mars some of her other tracks: no clunky references to Edith Wharton or Frank Sinatra or the World Trade Center, thank you very much. “As You Are Now” is a straightforward love poem. It’s still precious, of course (it’s Suzanne Vega, after all), but in a good way. “I will treasure all your teeth/your laughter and the pearls beneath/keep them in a cardboard box/through the tickings and the tocks.” Time’s hasn’t taken Vega anywhere, but it’s nice to think that the rest of us have caught up with her again.
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