is one of those songwriters whose work inspires other songwriters to write. Her lyrics have always woven incredible story arcs that fit perfectly with the subtle melodies inherent in the words. On her latest, Beauty & Crime
, Vega returns with the same lovely and difficult imagery, touching on so many genres it's silly to label it. These are just great songs.
On the Lyrics
Easily the strongest song on the disc is "New York is a Woman,"
where the story follows a suburban tourist falling in unrequited love with Manhattan. She sings, "New York City spread herself before you with her bangles and her spangles and her stars / you were so impressed with a city so undressed ... but to her, you were just a guy." She goes on to mention all the "beauty and ... crime" of the city, as the accompaniment swirls in the background like smoke rising from a sewer.
Another strong tune, "Edith Wharton's Figurines," is a simple, lovely, wordy folk song about the various levels of beauty in overcoming adversity. She sings, "In the struggle for survival, love is never blind."
On the Music
has never been one to shy away from experimenting sonically. From her folkier tunes like "Luka" and "Men in a War," to her electronic ablum 99.9F Degrees
, she's always been more focused on giving the songs room to speak than trying to cram them into any one genre. Beauty & Crime
holds plenty of sonic themes.
From the infectious, subtle Latin groove of "Pornographer's Dream" to the sudden emotive swell of the strings on "As You Are," and the strings-and-electric-guitar exchange on "Bound," Vega's command of her own arrangements is as impressive as ever. It's not easy to move through so many melodic themes on one disc without losing some sense of cohesion, but Vega does so flawlessly.
As You Are
New York is a Woman
Edith Wharton's Figurines