After a too-long absence, Edith Frost returns with It's a Game, her first album in four years. Though the trippy Telescopic and the full-fledged pop of Wonder Wonder suggested that she might continue to decorate her songs with elaborate productions, this album is actually her sparest-sounding work since her debut. That doesn't mean it's without variety, however; Frost's singing and writing have both broadened and deepened with time, and more than ever, she's able to take the best from different styles of music and songwriting and make them her own. "A Mirage" is a deceptively innocent-sounding song styled after traditional country ballads with a melody sweet enough to be played on a music box, while the charming "If It Weren't for the Words" is as witty and tightly structured as a classic pop song. Likewise, "My Lover Won't Call" has the aching elegance of torchy vocal jazz. On the other hand, "Just a Friend" and "Stars Fading" work (and work well) in a more contemporary-sounding singer/songwriter vein. Throughout It's a Game, Frost captures the ups and (mostly) downs of relationships. She excels at capturing the specifics and fine shadings of heartache: the worry and dread surrounding an inevitable breakup on "Emergency"; the weariness of trying to hang onto someone with one foot out the door on "What's the Use"; and eventual, bittersweet acceptance on "Lovin' You Goodbye." Even the album's happier songs are seeded with sadness. On "It's a Game" itself, trying to have a good time is the best that can be hoped for. Crucially, though, Frost not only boils painful situations down to their essences, she makes them sound beautiful instead of dreary. As always, Frost's music has the ring of truth, so much so that you hope for her sake that it's not too autobiographical. Let's also hope it doesn't take another four years for her to deliver another collection of her thoughtful, finely crafted songs.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares