Miranda Lee Richards is a regular performer on the Los Angeles live music circuit. She has also worked in collaboration with cult indie band The Brian Jonestown Massacre (she was featured briefly in the musical documentary Dig!). And songs off her debut album, The Hereafter, became fixtures on television shows.
Light of X is her latest release and continues the folk-tinged music prevalent on her prior effort. The music here is slow-paced — glacially at times — but far from fading mindlessly into the background. It’s basically a sometimes uneven collection of genres ranging from alt-country, to classic singer-songwriter territory.
The record opens with “Breathless,” a breezy, piano-dominated track, which slides along as it's backed by a sharp brush snare beat, setting the tone for the rest of the collection. It’s the kind of song that could use a looping trip-hop beat to turn it into an ultimate chill-out track. But it works nicely, showcasing Richards’ folksy yet earnest vocal delivery. Interestingly, her drummer, Keith Mitchell, played for the similar shoegazing Mazzy Star.
The second track, “Lifeboat” is too blasé for its own good, but it’s followed by “Savorin’ You Smile,” which is one of the stronger tracks here, giving a nice weight to Richards’ vocals while showcasing her experienced back-up band. The alt-country feel of the song pulls along sharp lyrics ("I see you on the street in a future’s day/And I almost pass you by, we’re stranger’s again").
“Pictures of You” is probably the most commercial sounding song on the album, a perfect slice of acoustic driven pop, all languid and lush. The album closes with “Last Days of Summer,” a song accompanied by neo-classical stings and a Tori Amos-like piano sound. Then, in an outdated nod to the 90’s, Richards delivers a hidden track, a psychedelic spoken-word number that should have simply been the final cut.
The album rarely rises above much more than a whisper, and while that works wonders for some songs, others feel like they need a little jolt of energy, like “Hidden Treasure,” the one bona fide snoozer. But I have to say this record grew on me. By the third listen it was easy to perceive the uniqueness that Richards brings to a somewhat stale genre.
The fact is Miranda Lee Richards writes strong songs and there are no throwaway words here. Her observations are pointed and on-target, without anything too clever or too coy And her voice has a melancholy tone that sounds breezy and slight but has an underlying layer that holds it up high. Light of X might not be the album of the year, but it’s certainly above a lot else out there and it’s a great start for this artist on the rise.