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Album Review

To an extent, Miranda Lee Richards has always been better defined by those around her. She tested her musical legs with the Brian Jonestown Massacre, co-writing several songs and singing backup vocals for the band, before launching a solo career with the help of producer Jon Brion and veteran drummer Matt Chamberlain. When the record tanked and her relationship with Virgin Records soured, Richards hit the road in support of more fortunate artists, touring the country alongside the likes of Tim Finn and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Years later, however, the well-networked songwriter appears to have finally found her own voice with Light of X, the long-anticipated follow-up to 2001's The Herethereafter. The voice in question has blossomed into an arresting, attractive thing, padded with layers of reverb and sprinkled with flower child pixie dust. Richards' songwriting has yet to match her delivery — the songs typically go for mood over melody, a mishap that's aggravated by a lack of co-writers on this record — but her vocals compensate for the lack, finding a home between the wearied croon of Hope Sandoval and the adolescent beauty of Harriet Wheeler. "Early November" is the true highlight here, a woozy pastoral ballad that wraps Richards' alto in harmonies and guitar chimes. When she lets loose toward the song's conclusion — reprising the chorus with impassioned, wordless syllables — she sounds downright gorgeous, basking briefly in the spotlight before retreating into the haze of organ and jangling arpeggios. Such moments of clear, blue-sky beauty show up throughout disc, but Light of X puts more emphasis on the aforementioned haze, which culminates in the spoken word Beat poetry and 5/4 time signature of the album's hidden track.

Biography

Born: California

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Miranda Lee Richards' songwriting career was shaped by her bohemian upbringing in San Francisco, where her parents (Ted and Teresa Richards) made a living as influential comic book artists. She grew up in the underground comic book scene, with R. Crumb serving as her de facto godfather. During her senior year of high school, a close friend began dating Metallica's Kirk Hammett, who took Richards under his wing and taught her to play several songs on guitar. It was in Hammett's basement that Richards...
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Light of X, Miranda Lee Richards
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