“I felt like I’ve been touched or tapped in some way, from a very early age,” the singer says of hits such as “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner.” “In fact, most people accused me when I was younger of being what they call ‘off with the fairies,’ since I seemed to be in my own world. But I’ve always felt the presence of that ... that other side.”
The arcane album, Vega’s eighth — issued on her own imprint, Amanuensis (named for a literary assistant who takes dictation, which is how she feels when songs course through her) — is resonating with fans around the world.
It went Top 40 in Britain, and she just returned from a world tour through Singapore, Australia, South Korea and Japan. The American leg continues with a stop in San Francisco this weekend.
It features one playful song, “I Never Wear White,” a stomping assessment of her own Gothic wardrobe. The rest of the disc is catacomb-deep.
Vega, a devout Buddhist, also is practical. She maintains a healthy diet, having recently substituted fruit and vegetables for red meat and starches.
But “Pentacles” ballads such as “Fool’s Complaint,” “Portrait of the Knight of Wands” and “Crack in the Wall” — in which the protagonist passes through a dimensional portal — feel almost otherworldly.
The latter, Vega says, “is a recounting of something I felt and saw and knew. And metaphors are how I prefer to tell those things because the spirit world doesn’t like to be talked about. So I try and respect its privacy by not yanking back the veil.”
Vega discovered the tarot by accident three years ago, while considering the strength of Bob Dylan’s lyrical imagery.
“When I started playing around on Google with that idea, of the image itself being powerful, I came up with the tarot,” she says. “Then I bought a tarot deck, and just found it a very seductive world. And you can tap into that spiritual side of life, using that as a tool.”
Initially, Vega told her fortune every day. Now, she’s down to twice a month. She never drew the cards for death or the hanged man, but the forecast occasionally turned literal.
“Once I pulled the tower card and I got to my hotel in Germany and they had put me in an actual tower!” she says. “Sometimes I think the force on the other side has a sense of humor, and it laughs at you a little.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.slimspresents.com