Artist: Miranda Lee Richards
Album: Existential Beast
Label: Invisible Hands Music
Release Date: 6.16.17
Troubled times like these call for the easy-going, otherworldly psychedelic country/folk of Miranda Lee Richards, although her latest LP, Existential Beast, is hardly an escape from reality. Other drugs, musical or otherwise, might be more effective in easing fear and anxiety over the state of things.
A protest album free of blind, impotent rage, but one that uncomfortably—and intimately—questions just about everything, the singer-songwriter’s fourth solo album doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects such as racism, the environment or gender equality, to name a few. Nor does it hide her own uncertainty, even as the poetic grace and intellect of her evocative lyrics take a calm, but powerful, stand against injustice.
All the while, Richards’ ambitious Existential Beast finds solace in flowing melodies, lush arrangements and instrumentation, and soft harmonies aglow with a pearly luminescence. Used to chaos and confrontation, having survived the bedlam of the Brian Jonestown Massacre early in her career, Richards doesn’t mind getting lost in a laid-back ’70s Laurel Canyon reverie in “Ashes and Seeds.” She emerges from the mists of lovely English folk traditions in “Oh Raven” as a spectral presence, arranges a stunning vocal flight of fancy in “Back to the Source” that would render Fleet Foxes speechless, and, just to show that not everything revolves around politics, Richards wanders the desert in a nocturnal “Lucid I Would Dream” before stumbling upon a secret, peyote-fueled jam between the Grateful Dead and Hawkwind.
More grounded in solid song craftsmanship, “On the Outside of Heaven” offers subdued, relaxed hooks and crisp pacing and “Autumn Sun” features deft finger-picking, whereas the deep, folk sprawl of the epic 12-minute closer “Another World” —practically a study of current affairs—seems to go on forever, like an Appalachian forest. Existential Beast roams freely and never stays in one place too long.