Eight years ago, Miranda Lee Richards released her astonishing debut, The Herethereafter, to a cynical, just barely post-9/11 world that somehow didn’t understand her contemporary spin on ’60s Psychedelia and Folk, taking her cues from The Stones, The Doors, Nick Drake and the Mamas and the Papas. I fell hard for the album and her incredible backstory (daughter of underground cartoonists, took guitar lessons from Kirk Hammett as a teenager, professional modeling career, sang with the Brian Jonestown Massacre).
Beginning where she left off on The Herethereafter, Richards eases into Light of X with “Breathless,” a gorgeous piano ballad that effortlessly reprises her debut’s stunningly hushed closer, “The Landscape,” based on a poem by Baudelaire.
Richards intones emotionally “Before I met you, my life was a series of chances/Before I met you, my mind it was racing all the time,” accompanied by a soundtrack that would make Fleetwood Mac green with Pop envy.
Richards invests Light of X with a psychedelic SoCal cowgirl vibe, from the shimmering and ethereally grounded “Lifeboat” to the Cowboy Junkies moan of “Mirror at the End.” At the same time, she deftly channels a little Sarah McLachlan Pop into “Hideaway” and casts a darker Nick Cave pall over “Early November,” at least until brightening slightly for the jangly chorus.
Light of X doesn’t represent a giant leap forward for Richards, but her debut was so quietly brilliant it wouldn’t make sense for her to depart too far from its soaring example. Here’s hoping that minds and ears are a little more open in 2009 (and a hopeful wish to Richards that we won’t be praising her third album in 2017). Grade: A