‘Beauty’ in CD form from Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Vega”Beauty & Crime,” Blue NoteSuzanne Vega’s early success came with the odd pop song “Luka,” but music that is cerebral and challenging has been the real mainstay of her career. Vega employs New York City to vivid effect on her first new album in nearly six years, “Beauty & Crime,” an artful array distinguished by classy sonic design and lyrical charm.There is an alluring inside-out quality to Vega’s songs. She describes intimate details from perspective-friendly distances, making up with rational insight and sharp wordplay what she sacrifices in incendiary jolts. Her voice is precise and even-keeled as she embraces the mournful remembrance of “Ludlow Street” and meditates on fantasies that transcend traditionally lurid on the plush bossa nova of “Pornographer’s Dream.”Her sophisticated narratives remain approachable, thanks to the sad truths in the cello-dappled acoustic pulse of “Edith Wharton’s Figurines” and the elegant metaphors of the billowing “Anniversary.” She paints her town as a storehouse of memories on the latter and gives it a matter-of-fact identity as an aloof heartbreaker on “New York Is a Woman,” but even in the most understated of declarations, her passion for its stories is bewitching.
– Thomas Kintner Aggrolites”Reggae Hit L.A.,” HellcatThe long, symbiotic relationship between punk and reggae continued during California’s ’90s punk rebirth. But just like The Clash before them, bands like No Doubt, Sublime and Rancid were interested in using island riddims only as a change of pace, while the ska revival produced acts even further removed from Jamaican roots.
That’s why the Aggrolites’ 2006 debut was such a shock. Here was a group of white California kids approximating some great, lost Jamaican album from 40 years ago, led by a singer overflowing with old-fashioned soul. It’s a formula the band has refined and repeated on “Reggae Hit L.A.,” an authentic-sounding primer on rocksteady, ska and reggae – with generous hints of the American R&B that inspired those styles. Organ-led skanks such as “You Got 5” and “Baldhead Rooster” could be recovered gems from the Upsetters’ stash, and vocalist Jesse Wagner does his best impression of Soul Brother No. 1 on the rousing title track.The danger of this expert revivalism is when it simply leeches off the legends that inspired it. But although there are tons of great reggae reissues to investigate, the Aggrolites’ love for Jamaican tradition – a tradition few current island exports seem interested in preserving – makes them easy to support.- Dan LeRoy Eileen Rose
“Come the Storm,” WildflowerBoston-area native Eileen Rose left home to seek her fortune on the London music scene, where she released a pair of critically acclaimed albums and shared stages with David Gray, Norah Jones and Radiohead.Despite her success overseas, the lure of home proved too strong in the post-Sept. 11 world, and Rose came back to Boston. Her musical base was in London, though, and moving home meant essentially starting over her career. “Come the Storm” is a powerful first step. It’s stirring, full of rootsy rockers and soulful ballads from a singer-songwriter with a knack for making deeply personal sentiments feel universal.Rose wrote the record while spending a winter alone in a rented house on Martha’s Vineyard, and the songs bear traces of snowed-in solitude as she searches in vain for extra-temporal answers on the searing “Nothing but Blue” and takes rueful stock of life on the fast-paced “Last New Year’s Eve.” Her voice is by turns strong and sweet; she sounds mournful on the piano ballad “Time To Go” and turns soft sadness into steely resolve on “Stagger Home.”- Eric R. Danton