Since 1981, Laurie Anderson has been one of the biggest avant-garde spoken word and experimental rock singers/songwriters to hit the mainstream American music scene. For the past 20 years, she has managed to awe audiences and fans with her prophetic messages, hauntingly detached vocals and surreal lyrics.

Life on a String, her first release since 1995, was produced last year and was originally to be drawn from her 2000 Songs and Stories From Moby Dick tour. While Anderson decided instead to make Life a work unique from Moby Dick, the album retains hints of its origins, with images of whales cropping up from time to time in several of the songs.

One who has been listening to and worshipping Laurie since “O Superman” might be somewhat disappointed with this latest offering. The lyrics in the album’s first few songs are somewhat shallow and she keeps her voice about half an octave above the haunting depth that makes her so distinctive.

This isn’t to say Life is a failure as a piece of work. The album becomes more pleasing as it progresses. Starting with the upbeat sorrow of “Broken,” the album spirals down into a deeper, nostalgic, poignant circle that reaches its beautiful nadir in “One Beautiful Evening,” and rebounds in some hope with the album’s melodic title track.

Laurie Anderson is performing at Campbell Hall on Jan. 30 and 31, premiering her new solo work Happiness. While the opening tracks of Life may make the avid Laurie fan fearful to attend, the album’s second half assures us that, at 54, the artist hasn’t lost it.