Monday, June 1, 2009

Music Review: Miranda Lee Richards - Light of X

I spent the other night watching an episode of "Bones", when a suddenly haunting and melodious song began playing in the background during the final scene of the episode.  As I often do when watching TV, I was paying more attention to the music then what was going on in the episode.  Not that the program was all that bad.. it wasn't.  Bones is a terrific show.  But the song had me captivated.

So I put my most excellent Google-fu skills to work, and in about 5 minutes I had found the song, and more importantly, the artist.  And so another ten bucks was donated to the great Empire of the Forbidden Fruit as I downloaded the album from Itunes.

The artist, as you've guessed by now, is Miranda Lee Richards. Richards has an interesting background.  She grew up in San Francisco as the daughter of underground-comic book creator Ted Richards, who created "the 40 year old hippie" of cult comic book fame.  And her first real exposure to music was as a result of her best friend dating Kirk Hammett, the Metallica guitarist, who taught her to play some songs on the guitar.  She picked it up quickly and began writing shortly thereafter.

Fast forward to present day, where Richards now lives in LA and has already produced one acclaimed album, "The Herethereafter", and released "Light of X" in early 2009.

"Light of X" is a soulful, sweet and beautiful sounding effort that doesn't over-produce itself for the sake of being more marketable.  It is both ethereal and folksy, and harkens to the bluesy, guitar-laden tones put forth by groups like Cowboy Junkies and Mazzy Star.

The album has its own slow, calm pace.  None of the songs get too upbeat, and many of them have a feel of sadness and longing.  But to call the album "depressing" or "maudlin" does not do the songs justice.  This is a soft, deep, and meaningful album that allows the listener to 'feel' the music rather than just hear it.  The lyrics are generally heartfelt and uplifting, and Richards' airy, whispy vocal quality works well in this light; in other words, these are songs you'd want to hear sung by a voice like Richards'.

That's not to say there aren't some flaws... the album stagnates in places and some of the songs seem seem almost forgettable.  After starting off strong with "Breathless" and "Lifeboat" (the song featured on the "Bones" episode), both excellent songs with meaningful lyrics and catchy hooks, the fairly plain and forgettable "Savorin your smile" follows.  The album continues this way, with a couple of purely excellent songs interrupted with a mediocre and almost contrived effort.  This can be forgiven, however, in the modern day 10-song per album format we've become accustomed to.  How often have you bought an album where all the songs were choice?

Songs like 'Hideaway' and 'Early November', with their simple, melodious sound are more than enough to make up for the few weak tracks, like 'Hidden Treasure'.  And the album does take a more upbeat turn with the fun 'Pictures of You', and I can guarantee you that you will be hearing 'Here by the Window' on an episode of "House" at some point.  

"Light of X" conveys the perfect mood for heart-tugging drama, and I wouldn't be surprised to see its songs popping up in the background of some of TV's best shows.  Heck... that's what I would do if I were in charge of such things. 

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