‘Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset’ is a vulnerable masterpiece

[Read my feature “Richard Edwards Reborn” for an in-depth look at the album from musician himself.]

For nearly a decade, Richard Edwards released music as a band called Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s. Don’t be fooled; he was the band. The players came in on different albums to help, but he was always the maestro. His lineups changed year to year, as did his music.

Now, Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset is his first true solo album under his own name. I wrote a feature about it that will appear sometime shortly on All Things Go about why this was time for him to step out from behind the Margot moniker.

The album is different and yet somehow the same as his previously released music. Fans split Margot’s discography into 1.0 (orchestral, experimental fun) and 2.0 (raucous, pop grunge). This album takes the softer elements of those first albums – as well as the Margot finale Slingshot to Heaven – and mixes it with the advanced songwriting skills Edwards learned as he left his 20s.

LCCS starts off with a half-minute prologue of ocean sounds before transitioning into the soft and eloquent “Lil Dead Eye-d” and the dreamy “Git Paid.” Here, he manages to create sonically fulfilling songs at a bare minimum. There’s acoustic picking with no fuzzy distortion or intricate drums. It feels like you’re sitting on a couch with the songwriter hearing his thoughts over a shared whiskey. He’s vulnerable and doesn’t have to hide behind anything. They’re spacey and you can feel the aching that he was going through while writing these songs.

“Fool” is fuller. There’s an edge to it that comes. The edge isn’t in-your-face rock. It’s softer than a song like Rot Gut, Domestic’s “Shannon.” Even with the fuzziness, there’s a nakedness to it. This happens a few songs later as well with “Management of Savagery.” Even when he’s loud and seemingly pissed off, Edwards is open in a way that I’m not sure any of his previous songs were.

I could write about every single song and highlight how Edwards has captured unique melodies with clever wordplay sprinkled into lyrics. This is the most complete from start to finish album he’s ever written. He never repeats the same trick and yet still somehow seems to make it completely cohesive. Which is especially impressive considering he told me he wrote the songs in batches over the course of years. Some were meant for a Margot album that eventually was scrapped.

Snapshot notes after my umpteenth listen to LCCS.

Over the course of the months I’ve been listening to it, my favorite song has jumped from the after mentioned “Savagery” to the melodically shifting “Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’” to “Lemon” and back again. It’s impossible to pick a favorite.

I even asked Edwards what song he was into most during a conversation in February. Here’s the exchange:

What songs do you gravitate toward right now?

I think “Git Paid” is a song that sounds exactly how I wanted it. It’s an example of a song that comes out how you heard it in your head and wanted others to hear.

The next single is “Rollin’.” I like “Lemon,” which I don’t think is going to be a focus track.

When I listened to the album, I wrote down short phrases that each song made me feel. “Lemon” definitely stood out. I wrote down that “Lemon” was a centerpiece of the album.

Thank you. That’s nice to hear. There’s always some on each record that I think are the best ones that don’t seem to appeal to anyone but me and a couple people.

It’s those deep tracks like “Lemon” (track 9 of 14) that makes Richard Edwards special. While the first set of songs that I talked about earlier are the ones many fans will end up putting on playlists and showing friends, its those songs from the second half of the album that will hit them in the stomach late at night a few years from now.

The songs that fill Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset shouldn’t be looked at the songs that killed Margot. That was a long time coming. The album should be looked at as the exciting birth of Richard Edwards. He’s been releasing music for a decade, but this could very well be the first record that he has figured it all out. Luckily, we might not have to wait long for new music. I’ll refer back to the transcript of my interview with him to close this review of his vulnerable masterpiece out.

I was clarifying something about the recording process with producer Rob Schnapf (Elliot Smith, Beck) when he mentioned something exciting. He discussed his time in the studio and then ended his thought with this:

The record that came out is sort of the bust up record. There’s another record that’s done that’s less focused on that stuff. Maybe more traditionally covering a bunch of things. But that’s done.

That’s ready to come out then?

It’s done. Maybe fall. It just depends on this one. It’s finished.

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