Three years after the last Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s record, lead singer, Richard Edwards releases his debut album. Titled Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset, this album is a sweet yet sorrowful treat of alternative (pop/folk) rock. Edwards had been out of commission for a year due to health issues and was also recently divorced. These events, specifically the divorce, seem to influence the majority of the record.
The album takes a melancholy approach right at the gates with the opening (after an intro) track, “Lil Dead Eye-d.” From the opening line of, “I got bored in California,” Edwards seems to be moving forward, sick of his current location and mindset. As he finishes the verse saying, “Bored with a sun that always shines, I got bored and I started dreaming again, Lil black eye-d you, Please let me go.” The chorus, “I’ve been thinking bout you, Oh, I’ve been thinking bout you, Little dead eye-d, And Los Angeles,” seems to sum up the idea that after Edwards moved forward he soon began to miss his (now ex-)wife. Edwards is now lost without his significant other, while simultaneously believing she’s lost herself long before he left. It’s a song where if you closed your eyes you can see a lemon cotton candy sunset right in front of you, with a gracefully played acoustic guitar humming in your ear.
The track, “Fool,” seems to summarize Edward’s marriage quite concisely. Edwards claims he’s suffering from his current relationship, haunted by his lover, who is torturing his soul, “I’m on fire and you’ve been the ghost, I’ve been a most patient kind, Like a fool, I admired, Even loved, you.” This song seems to inhibit the focus of the album; Edwards is struggling with the loss of his relationship and doesn’t know how to cope, so he drowns in his own distress.
A constant theme throughout the record is the repeated use of the moon, lemons and lemonade. Edwards strategically places the imagery of the moon and scatters it throughout the album. He asks where the moon is, the source of light in the dark void that is now his life without the person he truly longs to be with. In “Postcard” Edwards tells his wife, “When the moon is out, I hardly ever think of you now,” then compares her to a postcard, a distant memory of somewhere he’s once been. Countering the moon metaphor, on the previous track, “Disappeared Planets,” Edwards asks where his moon is. He’s in despair, wandering aimlessly, while she’s disappeared without a trace.
The pairing of these two tracks is seamless. “Disappeared Planets” begs the question of what Edward’s purpose is without his significant other. While “Postcard” tells us he doesn’t need her. She’s but “a shadow that vanished in the fog.” When the chorus comes around, so does Edwards, he daydreams, singing that he no longer needs her, but what would she do if he came back? Both tracks prove that Edwards still hasn’t moved on. No matter how much he denies the facts, he’s still in love.
“Lemon” tells the story of someone, whom he calls “honeysuckle,” (possibly his wife, whom he refers to as “honey” throughout the record) coming to see him in Chicago. There reunion is passionate, but he sees something deeper. He says he has given her all his love, but it never seems like it’s enough. “Honeysuckle” then calls out his flaws, maybe comparing him to another lover. This lover seems to be portrayed as “lemon” in the bridge. The song ends with Edwards defeated, knowing he doesn’t measure up to his rival in honeysuckle’s eyes.
The closing track “Moonwrapped,” may be the most heartbreaking track of them all. “Seen the moon wrapped around you, I’m happy livin’ in a dream, We been stitched at the hip, Why you pickin’ at the seams?, With the moon wrapped around you…,” Edwards wistfully croons as he looks back at his marriage that is now in shambles. All can do is stand and watch as his world crumbles down around him, watching his moonlight fade away.
“Hey, Jelly, Don’t cry, ’cause in the next life there ain’t no stomachs, And love don’t die, It moves through time (forever), Where it’s always true,” may be my favorite verse on the entire record. Edward’s love is dead, but he refuses to believe it’s gone forever. This could be perceived as a foolish way of thinking, but I believe it’s admirable. Edwards won’t give up, no matter how difficult it’s been for him, no matter the hell that he’s been put through he holds on to his love for his wife. The album ends with, “I love you, I always do.” The music dies down and we hear waves crashing on the shore, the same way the album opens, but this time a door closes, silence.
Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset is one of the most beautifully sounding and written albums I’ve heard this year. It will no doubt be, at least, in my top 10 favorites at the end of the year. It’s a concept album about a marriage that ceased to exist and a man left alone to deal with the aftermath. Unlike Ryan Adam’s “Prisoner,” this record leaves us empty and alone with Edwards on the beach watching the sunset fade away with no moon in sight.
Words By Zach Shappley