The new album from Suzanne Vega is a mixed bag. The themes of the songs are fascinating, calling on aspects of Tarot, the Bible and feelings about a playwright and politician Vaclav Havel amongst other subjects. She refers to her songs as stories and parables, and the lyrical content is always diverse, even if we have to unpick the context. As listeners this is what we have learned to expect from her over the years. Regardless, we eventually bring our own meaning to the songs when we find the parts of them that resonate.
Musically tracks vary from those with a lighter touch like Crack In The Wall to those with more acoustic, folk-based roots. It is the latter that we perhaps more readily associate with the Vega of old, the paired back accompaniment as her voice delivers the song melodically above. Songs such as Portrait of the Knight of the Wands and Silver Bridge are in this vein, and work on a different level for me. I much prefer the songs from Vega that are sparse. I was very much in the Tom’s Diner camp rather than with those who preferred the strangely radio-friendly Luka. I do appreciate that a singer/songwriter with such a lengthy career as Vega needs to make changes and develop their music. Vega can’t just keep replicating the vibe of her early albums and wouldn’t stay in a static state of acoustic folk. That would be boring for everyone.
Tales from the Realms of the Queen of Pentangles is out now on Cooking Vinyl.