All songs written by Edith Frost / ©2005 Marfa Music (BMI)
(Side A) Emergency, It’s a Game, What’s the Use, A Mirage, Playmate, My Lover Won’t Call
(Side B) Lucky Charm, Larger Than Life, Just a Friend, If It Weren’t For The Words, Stars Fading, Good to Know, Lovin’ You Goodbye
My family; Eric Ziegenhagen; Sarah Dandelles; John Whitney; Archer Prewitt; Dan Koretzky; Dan Osborn; Melissa Severin; Zach Cowie; Scott McGaughey
(…and a lot of other people I didn’t have room to mention, you know who you are!)
You can download an outtake of
Good to Know from the It’s a Game sessions.
The game Edith Frost refers to on her fourth long-player isn’t necessarily a fun one. Nope, the game here is love and from the start it seems Frost is all too often on the losing side. But that’s not to say there isn’t a brightness in the San Antonio-raised songwriter’s gentle brand of twanged whimsy.
It’s a Game – the follow-up to 2001’s Wonder Wonder – is a record of simple beauty and warmth as much as of yearning and heartache. Now settled in Chicago and with a brilliant roster of Windy City musicians behind her, Frost has made an album that glows with delicate arrangements and emotive candour.
Husky guitars, piano and gently brushed percussion underscores her note-perfect delivery. Most remarkably, she manages to balance the distant, swaying traditionalism (the smoky swagger of “What’s the Use” and the classic country balladry of “A Mirage” and “Lucky Charm”) with the stark, markedly personal immediacy of songs like “Playmate.”
“I want to find somebody to press against in the night,” she croons. Frost may be losing the game of love but her record is the better for it.
- Dan Rule / The Age (Australia)
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.
- Heather Phares / Allmusic.com, November 2005
It’s been awhile since we’ve last heard from Edith Frost — four years to be exact. Apparently in the wake of a hefty tour after 9/11, she decided to take an undetermined absence from making music. Luckily she didn’t throw in the towel all together, as her songwriting, while being vastly underappreciated, still had room to develop.
Within minutes of “It’s a Game,” it’s clear that not rushing another album was the way to go. The music behind Frost’s words is simply perfect. It’s nothing too complicated: just nice, folk arrangements that are reminiscent of Gillian Welch’s early work. At times, she gets dreamy and slow (“Mirage,” “Lucky Charm”), while “Emergency” and “It’s a Game” are beautiful piano ballads and “What’s the Use” flirts with Iron & Wine-style rootsiness.
Frost’s voice is still sweet and innocent sounding, but her subject matters are hardly lightweight material. Heartbreak, lost loves, jerks, loneliness: subjects that are often too familiar to singer/songwriter types are vivid in her hands. In fact, Frost is so skilled at conveying pure honesty that listeners can’t help but adore her.
- Michael D. Ayers / Billboard.com, November 2005
“It’s A Game” follows the longest break of Edith Frost’s career, and the time off seems to have done the trick; it’s the best thing she’s recorded since her first album, 1997’s Calling Over Time.
Like that album, this one is a post-heartbreak autopsy, but it’s no retread. The accompaniment is not so pared-to-the-bone; the edges are a bit softer thanks to the upholstering furnished by keyboardists Azita Youssefi, Lindsay Anderson and Mark Greenberg. The backing, which shifts from country to torch-song jazz to yearning pop, is Frost’s most eclectic to date, and it’s executed throughout with an understatement that keeps the vocals front and center. Such restraint is key to It’s A Game’s success; the singing is similarly underplayed, which counterbalances the naked pain in some of her lyrics.
Frost and producer Rian Murphy have ordered the songs into a narrative that starts with a suspicion that something is wrong and takes the listener through a crumbling affair’s episodes of rejection, isolation, and resignation. She’s never written so directly before; the anxiety and frustration is more palpable, the hurt deeper than anything she’s previously recorded. But Frost never oversells her heartbreak, and the album’s hopeful resolution feels as genuine as the smile she throws over her shoulder on the back sleeve.
- Bill Meyer / Dusted, November 20, 2005
Recovering Texan Edith Frost describes her sound on MySpace.com as ”pensive countrified psychedelia.” Indeed. Yet It’s a Game brings her slo-mo alt-folk into sharper-than-usual focus, with melodies that stay rather than drift away. Grade: B+
- Will Hermes / Entertainment Weekly, November 14, 2005
Despite Edith Frost’s typically lengthy list of collaborators, It’s a Game sounds more like a solo effort than 2001’s robust Wonder Wonder. But that air of solitude after four years of silence has less to do with her sparse arrangements than with her melancholy, lovelorn subject matter. “A Mirage” finds her clutching to the shimmering memory of a bygone relationship, while she bemoans her search for an equally broken-hearted companion on “Playmate.” While some cuts are eerily reminiscent of other artists (the interlocking vocals on the title track reek of early Liz Phair, and the lilting choruses of “What’s the Use” recall Aimee Mann’s plaintive coo), Game brims with Frost’s conversational, intimate tone. Rather than a collection of weepy lovesongs, the album portrays the confidence of a woman for whom independence has become an obsession.
- Catherine P. Lewis / Harp Magazine, December 2005
Edith Frost has been awfully quiet for the last few years; then again, she’s pretty quiet all the time. Her near-magical 1996 EP — released, somewhat incongruously, by Drag City — set the template for Frost’s spare, sad, soft career. Subsequent albums never begged for attention, content instead to find homes with other melancholy bedsitters. But close inspection to the new It’s A Game reveals a melodic and atmospheric sense both timeless and beautiful: She experiments with twinkling sounds and country-ish lights, but all in service of lovely little songs.