Existential Beast by Miranda Lee RichardsRelease date: June 16, 2017
Label: Invisible Hands Music
Miranda Lee Richards is a California based psych folk artist who may be best known for her vocal work with Brian Jonestown Massacre. But that does her a disservice, for she is an excellent musician in her own right and certainly doesn’t need to ride the coattails of Anton Newcombe’s musical collective.
On this, her fourth album, Miranda Lee offers us a fine, beautifully rendered piece of work, both delicate and tough where it needs to be, especially when she hits political points. She explains that “In varying degrees, we are all still working with the animal urges of fear, competition, survival, and sexuality that are deep-seated and manifesting in different ways, depending on where people are at. Perhaps a more endearing outlook is to see this as an assignment in working with the inner child, who can at times behave like a wild beast. But like it or not, these tendencies have been revealed, within our leaders, our countries, and ourselves; it is indeed a pivotal and transformational time.”
None of this is necessarily evident when you scratch the surface of this release, which seems to go down like a vanilla milkshake. But after the music settles in your head, you’ll begin to notice the thoughtful lyrics. ‘Ashes and Seeds’ discusses complacency and the chorus reminds us that history repeats and repeats. It’s all riding atop a gentle, steel and acoustic guitar driven melody. Miranda Lee excels in these chambered, alt-country spaces that expand upon the soft psych she revels in. Listen closely to this tune, you’ll see what I mean. ‘The Wildwood’ could be likened to the craziness of DC and the GOP, and its somewhat frenzied pace bears this thought out. The single ‘Lucid I Would Dream’ is a soft, contemplative piece that inhabits the same space that Suzanne Vega once did back in the 80s. Miranda Lee has such a lyrical, expressive voice that shades these tunes like a gentle rain. ‘Golden Gate’ is a love song for the city of Miranda Lee’s birth and it brims over with joy. ‘Back to the Source’ sounds like ancient British folk, and Miranda Lee’s vocals are double tracked on this short tune.
‘Autumn Sun’ revels in the beauty of nature and its pristine production and arrangement suit it perfectly. One of my favorite tunes here! The title track has many divine layers and the warm, organ washes make you want to float away. ‘Oh Raven’ hearkens back to Sandy Denny era Fairport Convention, and exhibits the same craft and attention to detail as those long ago recordings. ‘On the Outside of Heaven’ has a strong, main melody and is my favorite tune on this record. The final selection is ‘Another World’, another tune that reminds me of Suzanne Vega’s debut album. It speaks to the ‘great divide’ in this country, and that we should not be afraid to speak up. At least, that is how I interpret it. In summary, this is a great record, possibly Miranda Lee’s best effort to date, and one you should not miss if you enjoy the sort of music described herein.