Richard Edwards has one of the most fascinating career trajectories in modern music. Getting his start in 2005 with Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s, Edwards was immediately the front man of an indie darling of a band. The group would go on to release seven records, ending with my personal favorite, “Tell Me More About Evil” in 2014. The also released a massive box set of B sides and live recordings in 2015 which sold well.
Edwards, however, had gone off the grid. Aside from a few posts on his social media pages, the once charismatic leader of the soft rock outfit had all but disappeared. This changed, of course, in late 2016, when he made a massive announcement through his Instagram page. Fans first learned that Edwards had been suffering from a debilitating stomach issue, and thus had been rendered unable to perform, or even leave his home for almost the entire three years.
More importantly, though, he announced that he would release his first ever solo project in the March of 2017, leaving fans scratching heads as to how his sound would vary without the larger group. Luckily, 2017’s Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset was one of the best albums of the year, boasting a successful critical reception with the added bonus of excellent sells to fans. He went on to give a moving performance at the Gas, Feed, & Seed festival in Iowa as well as several excellent showings on various radio and tv in order to promote LCSS as well as another mystery record which would “Probably be out soon.” That record was Verdugo and it was worth the wait.
The lyricism is, as one would expect, on full display here. Edwards has become infamous for his ability to write lyrics which may not tell a full story on paper, but that allow listeners to feel the emotions which Edwards himself must’ve felt while writing them. Tracks like “Howlin’ Heart” and “Something Wicked,” are masterpieces in this form of emotional writing.
Sonically, highlights include “Minefield,” “Beekeeper,” and “A Woman Who Can’t Say No.” On each of these, as well as throughout the entire track list, Richard pulls from a myriad of genre’s and an obviously extensive knowledge of music to create one of the most eclectic collections of songs I’ve ever heard. The instrumentation is able to capture the sparse acoustic focusses of singer/songwriter music, while still finding time for overwhelming orchestral swells and vocal phrasing which bounces from obvious country influences to even pop and R&B.
While we’re on the topic, let’s talk about the vocal performance. He showcases the abilities of his full-bodied, chest voice on the opener, “Gene” while bringing out his wispy falsetto towards the end on “Strange.” Throughout, there is so much emotion in his voice that listeners can really feel every ounce of pain, victory, and reminiscence which coats this album.
Even the production is impressive. While the more subtle examples can be found in each track by listening to the guitar work and endless, excellent vocal mixes. There are, however, a few more obvious examples of producer, Bob Schnapf’s abilities exist in his massive changes to “Pornographic Teens” from its single version, or even on the short but spacey, “Tornado Dreams” interlude.
Above all, my favorite track is “Olive Oil,” as it perfectly incapsulates everything that is so amazing about this album. The lyrics are beautiful and emotional, Edwards’ vocal is varied, but always at the forefront. That is, until a fantastic acoustic guitar solo which makes up the bridge. The track even ends well, making it the best track on an already great record.
In the end, this album checks every box for me. The writing is amazing, its aesthetically consistent and pleasing, and everyone involved really gave it their all. From the smallest bit of production to Edwards’ leading role and everything in between, this album is just incredible. Then again, I never expected anything less.
HEAR THE ALBUM: https://open.spotify.com/album/0ucWpdhnWdKLMgRYmzWCty