Richard Edwards and the Velvet Ocean – The Soft Ache and the Moon
Richard Edwards, of Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s fame, is back with his third proper solo LP. Resigned to an ordinary life due to persistent chronic illness, Edwards has been releasing studio projects at a strong pace. Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset was befitting of its title, with lush arrangements. Verdugo was a bit more bare bones and vulnerable, though certainly to its benefit.
The Soft Ache and the Moon takes the best of these releases and rounds things out with a full backing band. The end result is a record blushing with intricate guitar and piano melodies. Edwards’ lyrics are characteristically poetic, this time based on a dream. It feels fitting, then, that this album has a dreamlike quality.
In true fashion, Edwards wastes no time showcasing his gossamer falsetto on “January”, the album’s opening track. Piano, guitar, strings, and drums are all balanced and full, serving as cinematic backdrop. In short, Edwards and crew set the bar high right away.
“Monkey” proceeds with much of the same momentum and adds in plenty of orchestral flair as well. “Love breaks your heart”, Edwards laments of rain-drop guitar. It’s moody, maybe even a bit cabaret, balancing serious undertones with flirtatious pining.
TSAATM is tender as expected, laced with earnest longing. It’s the hope and sting of dreams still unfulfilled. It’s the emotional lift after a good cry. Pain and peace are so indistinguishably interwoven here that they both forfeit their identities for something more profound, a sort of mono no aware. It’s an album that conjures vivid mental imagery of Parisian cafes at dusk, walks through Central Park, a winter night spent in front of a fire place, or a lazy day spent relaxing on the beach. The emotional context is pervasive – even if you haven’t done everything in that list, there’s a good chance you relate to this type of romanticism.
A lot of the album’s strength rests in the supporting band. Drums are appropriately restrained and minimalist, often making use of brushes. Piano is prominent, adding a somber touch to most of the songs. Guitar parts are varied – anything from reverb-laden riffs to Spanish-style licks. While there are a couple solos, they never feel too intense or attention-seeking. Strings are booming and cinematic, complementing the rest of the ensemble. Combined, each track is a roller coaster of dynamics .
The album’s nine-track length may scare some at first, but rest assured there is nothing lacking when it comes to runtime. The shortest track is just over four minutes, but a majority of the songs are five minutes or longer. This makes for huge arrangements that have plenty of time to build and shapeshift; indeed, the songs are in a perpetual state of flux, moving effortlessly like coalescing streams.
TSAATM is decidedly different than its predecessors. It feels bigger. It cuts deeper emotionally. It trades some of the pop appeal of its counterparts for lustrous soundscapes. The end result isn’t necessarily better or worse than Edwards’ other LPs, but it is distinctly fuller in many respects. Edwards continues to evoke tidal waves of emotions, and TSAATM exemplifies this.