When Mick Jagger sang of the girl who "comes in colors everywhere" in "She's a Rainbow," a gorgeously loopy ode to a flower-wearing, free-loving beauty on the Stones' confused 1967 psychedelic experiment Their Satanic Majesties Request, there's a good chance he was describing a woman he actually knew. But he was also sketching a character archetype that would appeal 35 years later to a pair of would-be hippie chicks with new albums in their patchouli-stained knapsacks.
For Miranda Lee Richards, the former model/California scenester/underground comics scion, Jagger was laying down a musical blueprint, too. The Herethereafter, Richards' debut album (following a spell in the company of stoned Stones acolytes the Brian Jonestown Massacre), takes Satanic Majesties' candy-colored acid-pop into the 21st century, questionable philosophizing and all. On "Right Now," she even tries to update Jagger's dreamboat, apparently unaware that she's it: "She walks by, the wind in her hair...mandarin oranges and tailored dresses." Sounds awful, I know. Yet somehow Richards (and her talented cast of hired studio hands) manages to weave an unexpectedly lovely tapestry throughout The Herethereafter, full of piquant instrumental touches and a surprisingly tasteful approach to material bursting with suns and heavens and solstices. Like a ginger-haired Macy Gray, Richards is at her best when her sidemen are. Which is why "I Know What It's Like," helmed by L.A. producer (and Macy Gray sideman) Jon Brion sounds like a little symphony, wrapping Richards' undeniably alluring voice and her undeniably so-so lyrics ("In time you may regret things you do 'cause you have to/The nights that end in curfew") in a gossamer web of swirling strings and a billion antique synths. Still, Richards is no pretty face (even though, well, she is): She pulls off the piano-led ballad "The Landscape," which she adapted from a Baudelaire poem, with only a cello for support.
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That's the kind of flower power that might appeal to Paula Frazer, who spent the '90s pretty much constituting 4AD's country-noir act Tarnation. Though, like Richards, she came of age in San Francisco, Frazer grew up in Georgia and Arkansas, a background that indelibly left its mark in Tarnation's muted Southern Gothic tendencies. That heart of darkness permeates Indoor Universe, Frazer's first solo record since Tarnation's break-up; the effect is not unlike the Stones' turn toward the murky final chapters of the '60s. "There is a quiet that one longs for in the dark," she sings on the album-opening "That You Know," subtly bolstered by a flamenco-like twist of strings, "to still the yearning that's been buried in your heart." Frazer's music, somber and complicated in a primordial-soup sort of way, is quite a bit like that quiet--an earth mother, dressed in blue, standing in the shadow.