I can't recall a recent album with so many telling, wish-I'd-written-that lines as Kim Richey's Chinese Boxes. She's been moving away from alt-country toward pop with each album, and she's finally there. Recorded in London with George Martin's son Giles producing, this ten-song, 33-minute AAA pop jewel is sophisticated yet simple and, lyrically, as terse as it gets — like songs from Revolver or Rubber Soul. In Richey's world, relationships never stand still and even the dearest lovers have their faults and foibles. "You're like all four seasons / one becomes the other," she notes on the title track. Filled with resignation and almost comedic instrumentation, "Jack and Jill" sounds like a lost McCartney song, while on "The Absence of Your Company" and the entrancing rocker "Not a Love Like This" (which recalls her smoky 1999 hit "Come Around"), Richey digs deep into the heart and finds those soft spots that pithily inform us that love isn't easy, that all that exhilaration usually hides a downside. Martin deserves major credit for a production so precise and clear that, from mandolin to Mellotron, not a single element drowns another, placing Richey's lyrical and vocal brilliance front and center, right where it belongs.
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