These are the Sarahs I know, I know …

If you name your daughter Sarah, are you increasing the odds that she’ll have a gorgeous voice and sing brainy, heartfelt pop?

Consider the evidence:

Dubstar (Sarah Blackwood, and for once, I’m not embedding Stars):

Velocity Girl (Sarah Shannon)

Sarah McLachlan

Suzanne Vega: Proud of her two hits (and the other 20-plus years)

Thanks to Jason for posting to his Facebook profile a terrific NYT blog post by none other than Suzanne Vega.

Vega is several types of New Yorker wrapped into one. She’s a creative artist with an acoustic guitar, and she’s a pugnacious sort who takes no shit. She may not be the most technologically adept person in the world — it’s apparent from her intro that she confused her AOL Welcome Screen with something else.

Her post leads into an intriguing deconstruction of Luka, the one major hit she had on her own. (Tom’s Diner was only a hit after someone turned her a cappella slice of life into an unlikely hip-hop anthem.) She tells us she disagreed with her manager about the song’s potential as a hit, and she wasn’t at all interested in tackling social issues. Funny how so many musicians don’t recognize their own potential hits. Maybe managers and A&R reps deserve some of their salaries.

She’s refreshingly not bitter about the experience. Sure, she’d like to remind us that she has produced some good music over the years, and she has. I’ve raved about Blood Makes Noise before while venting about the state of the medical industry, and I’ll add In Liverpool just to pick another great song at random.

Read and enjoy.

Art

Title: Dog Sticking Out Tongue

Artist: MMM Jr. (2003- )

Date: June 2008

Medium: Sand, seashells and beach toys

History: The work from MMM Jr.’s early period is a radical departure from Dad, created for Father’s Day, and Something Sort of Like Darth Vader. Working in this medium for the first time, the artist eschews the postmodernist shape-shifting of Picasso but makes a bold statement about modernity with his use of color. A previous draft of this work did not include the characteristic tongue. The artist was very pleased with the three-dimensional relief present in the final version, but unfortunately, this work was destroyed a short time later when MMM Jr., bowing to the inevitability of its destruction by the approaching tide, took the beach toys over to play in the sand.

Location: Stone Harbor, NJ

Price: Unavailable, see above

Quick reviews: R.E.M., Aimee Mann, Dubstar

I don’t usually apologize for being absent from the blog — most of you know this is always going to be a poor third on the priority list behind the family and the job. But I’ve taken on too many projects at once this month, and so I must blame my own time management for being slack in these parts.

Somewhere along the way, I had time to cash in some gift cards and pick up three CDs. After listening to roughly half of each one, here’s what I have so far:

R.E.M., Accelerate

The critics have been gushing over this one. They’re right.

I remember listening to Lifes Rich Pageant for the first time with my high school friend Todd, driving down some winding road between Athens and Watkinsville. The first three songs blew me away. After the folkish Fables of the Reconstruction, R.E.M. cranked it up a bit with Begin the Begin and These Days. Listening to Accelerate is a similar experience.

If you had asked me a year ago to see R.E.M., I surely would’ve been hoping to hear some of my old favorites. If I had tickets to an R.E.M. song tomorrow, I’d be pumped up to hear Living Well is the Best Revenge, the searing opener propelled by Michael Stipe’s firm, inspiring voice of reason and Mike Mills’ active bass.

Aimee Mann, @#%&*! Smilers

I had always thought critics viewed Lost in Space as a brilliant album, but the reviews gathered at Wikipedia are lukewarm. That’s a pity, because I enjoyed that approach far more than what I’m hearing on this one. So far, I’m finding this one just a little too cutesy in the instrumentation and a little too subdued in the vocals. I give Mann the benefit of the doubt, though, and I’m sure a couple of songs will grow on me.

Dubstar, Stars – The Best of Dubstar

Can someone explain to me why this band wasn’t huge? Why didn’t any radio programmer or megamogul listen to one of this band’s thoughtful songs with layers of hooks in the keyboards, all behind the lovely voice of Sarah Blackwood, and drive up to Newcastle with bags full of money?

I bought it just because Stars and Just a Girl She Said haven’t been available at iTunes or anywhere else, and I simply couldn’t stand carrying around an iPod without those songs. Now I’m uncovering a treasure trove of gorgeous songs. Possibly the best synth-pop you’ll ever hear.