Fans of singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega's literary folk-pop ballads have gone six years without a new batch, a wait that finally comes to an end this week with "Beauty & Crime," the first fruit of

Fans of singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega's literary folk-pop ballads have gone six years without a new batch, a wait that finally comes to an end this week with "Beauty & Crime," the first fruit of a fresh pact with Blue Note.

An 11-track collection with a loose New York theme, the album began taking shape during the months following Sept. 11. "I was touring in this atmosphere where people kept asking me what was going on in New York," Vega says. "I started to think about it and wrote 'Anniversary,'" the hushed acoustic shuffle that closes the album. "But it didn't seem like enough to write the one song, so I thought it'd be interesting to make a mosaic of different stories that happened from 9-11."

The result is a classic-sounding set that also thrums with an immediacy Vega hasn't mustered since "99.9 F," her beat-heavy 1992 collaboration with producer (and ex-husband) Mitchell Froom. Guests include Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, who decorates "Ludlow Street" with dreamy guitar dramatics, and KT Tunstall, who contributes backing vocals to opener "Zephyr" and "Frank & Ava," the latter of which ponders Frank Sinatra's marriage to Ava Gardner.

Vega has already taken the plunge into new ways of promoting her music, having performed her hit "Tom's Diner" in the online virtual reality platform Second Life. "I like the idea of performing in a new medium," says Vega, who admits that "it took me ages to understand the idea when they first told me about it. It kind of changes the implications of touring. I can go to a radio station or even my own living room and reach people throughout the world."