New York City is both the focus and framework for Beauty & Crime (Blue Note), Suzanne Vega's gorgeously nuanced, elegiac new album, her first studio work since the World Trade Center attack and its profound affect on her hometown. A quantum but logical leap from her folkie origins in tunes like "Luka," Vega's Crime stories are essentially vignettes that capture both the allure and risks of the city and its inhabitants, from a graffiti artist to the acidic lovers in "Frank & Ava" (as in Sinatra and Gardner). They're also rich in intensely personal details, including the death of Vega's brother, a relative who was a cop at ground zero, and a nostalgic reverie about bygone neighborhood days. Vega's unaffected voice imbues the pieces with an earthy clarity, even as the music ranges from a sly bossa nova ("Pornographer's Dream") to taut, edgy rock, pulsing electronics, and lush orchestrations. The prevailing mood is bittersweet, "thick with ghosts," as she says in "Anniversary." But it's also full of the wiry pulse of New York, where "possibilities...live on every street." 21+.
Tue., Oct. 2, 7 p.m., 2007