Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset is the solo debut of Richard Edwards, known for over a decade prior as the man behind the thoughtful indie rock of Margot & the Nuclear So and So's. It's not really a solo debut in a strict sense -- Edwards was always his band's singer, main songwriter, and sole consistent member, and a number of guest musicians join him here. What's significant is that it's the first album under his own name, and one that follows a period of personal upheaval. After releasing Margot's fifth LP, Sling Shot to Heaven, in 2014, Edwards was diagnosed with C. diff, a potentially life-threatening infection that led to sudden weight loss, the cancellation of a sold-out tour, and abdominal surgery. During the ordeal, he and his wife also divorced, and Edwards tossed material he'd been working on, opting to start from scratch. A very personal album, Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset addresses the aftermath of those events, and, with the aid of producer Rob Schnapf (Elliott Smith, Cass McCombs), does so with an elegant, twilight-hued tone, as evoked by the record's title. While the album avoids sinking into a bleaker atmosphere, it does offer weighty emotional rawness. Inflected with jazzy blues and an impulsive, sometimes dissonant saxophone, "Disappeared Planets," for instance, asks "What the hell am I supposed to be/If you don't need me," adding "There's been absence/Like losin' a planet." Also contributing to its sense of authenticity are passages of field recordings, including conversation ("[chakra khan]"), and a transient female presence also provided by multiple guest backing vocalists, including Jenny O. With a couple of sparser exceptions, rich full-band arrangements and Edwards' way with a pretty melody engage aside from the lyrical content, though wistful chords and warm palettes that blend synths, strings, and guitar twang only reinforce the sentiments. For those who can handle the heartache, it's a lovely album, one that's bound to be, for some, intensely relatable.
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AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson