The Richard Edwards Albums Ranked

I’m not really sure where the Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s albums ended and the Richard Edwards albums began. That’s because the first two of Edwards’ trilogy of “solo” albums, after the vague disbandment/hiatus of the indie alt rock band he fronted, also list the full band name as a co-artist on Spotify. However, it’s pretty clear that, more than ever, Edwards is striking out on his own, away from the nebulous and always rotating line-up of the group that put him on my radar. With his three solo albums thus far, including the impetus for this piece that was released on June 12 (THE SOFT ACHE AND THE MOON), Edwards is taking a decidedly softer tone than the rockier sounds of Margot’s earliest/best records. His records are still defined, however, by his whimsical voice and aptitude for crafting otherworldly tunes…even if they are missing some of those hooks I so crave from the Margot days.

EDIT 10/14/21: Added RICHARD EDWARDS SINGS THE MARGOT & THE NUCLEAR SO AND SO’S SONGBOOK IN QUARANTINE (VOLUME 1).

Favorite track: “A Woman Who Can’t Say No”

The second of Edwards’ solo albums could, I guess, be considered a “sophomore slump.” The thing is, none of his records are bad and are of similarly high quality. Edwards paints vivid sonic pictures with his lyrics and lush instrumentation, built with relatively simple tools. His is plain, unadorned music, for the better. It’s not that there isn’t a lot going on with VERDUGO; in fact, it’s the most “produced” of Edwards’ records. It is sandwiched between two more stripped down records, and while that does not ding it to last place, it seems to be notable as an outstanding difference. VERDUGO maintains a good baseline of moody listening, but “A Woman Who Can’t Say No” is far and away the best track Edwards has put out through his solo projects. Its chorus and instrumentation soar and dip with remarkable grace.

Favorite track: “When You Get Lost”

Edwards’ return to music-making three years after Margot’s last record, SLING SHOT TO HEAVEN (2014), was made after a rocky period in his personal life, to put it mildly. It reflects that melancholy, but with its whimsical title and beautifully colored album cover, LEMON COTTON CANDY SUNSET also doesn’t feel like it’s coming from an artist resigned to angst. There’s some processing happening on LEMON COTTON CANDY SUNSET, and if there’s any downside to that, it’s that there’s a potential for malaise to set in. I won’t say it definitely did for me, but it’s possible to be washed away by the record or pulled into it.

Favorite track: “Cruel and uncomplicated”

The latest from Edwards is his first record without the Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s co-credit on Spotify (but with the “and The Velvet Ocean” credit on the album cover), but it’s still very much a continuation of what he started with LEMON COTTON CANDY SUNSET. It’s less urgent than VERDUGO, but also livelier than LEMON COTTON CANDY SUNSET, and it strikes the balance between the two so well as to make it my favorite of Edwards’ solo work so far. It may be strange to describe THE SOFT ACHE AND THE MOON as livelier than LEMON COTTON CANDY SUNSET, but I guess if I can attribute that feeling to something, it would be a greater diversity in sound between the former’s tracks. Even within “Cruel and uncomplicated,” for example, Edwards strikes a few different tones, which end in a different place, musically, than where the track started. The same could be said for the record’s place in the lineage of Edwards and Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s. THE SOFT ACHE AND THE MOON is of a kind with THE DUST OF RETREAT (2006, Margot’s debut album), but filtered through a decade-and-a-half of experiences and a more mature, surer hand.

Favorite track: “Freak Flight Speed”

The unwieldy title of RICHARD EDWARDS SINGS THE MARGOT & THE NUCLEAR SO AND SO’S SONGBOOK IN QUARANTINE (VOLUME 1) tells you almost everything you need to know about the album. Edwards takes to the catalogue of his former band with a stripped a down approach, befitting the nature of COVID-related quarantine and isolation. And apparently, more is on the way. But for now, it’s the best work Edwards has done under his solo billing. SONGBOOK interprets, if not deep cut Margot songs, then certainly not the biggest ones (there’s no “Broadripple Is Burning,” for example) with a piano-focused ear and a new supporting band. In the grand tradition of artists “covering” their own old songs, most of the songs on SONGBOOK were done better on their source albums, even if the songwriting craft and rendition here are still satisfying. But SONGBOOK is also remarkable in that it actually improves a couple of songs from their original form, such as “Freak Flight Speed” and “Prozac Rock.” It kind of feels like a copout to name SONGBOOK Edwards’ best record, as it’s based on the incredible work he had already done with Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s. But the fact of the matter remains that it would be the first of his albums I would turn to if prompted.

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