The second album from Brooklyn based electronic trio Lemonade is an album that perfectly fits the old cliché of the more mature second album. The trio’s self-titled debut was an impressive collection of deep and immersive dance music with a real club sensibility. But second album Diver eschews those bold and exuberant club sounds in favour of a glassy electro sheen aligned to a far more pronounced emotional edge. This is an album far more suited to bedroom introspection than club land euphoria.
Opening track Infinite Style introduces the translucent and wispy synth sound that dominates throughout the album. There is an engaging vulnerability to singer Callan Clendenin’s soft vocals; it is a gossamer smooth voice that fits well with music that shimmers rather than pulses. The album is dominated by an icily cold atmosphere that gives a rather unsettling quality to the RnB slow jams of Neptune and Eye Drops. Perhaps the best comparison is with the last Junior Boys album, another record that tried to combine emotive pop melodies with subtle and inventive electronica.
The tracks on Diver are all incredibly well constructed and assured pop songs. It’s as if, by leaving some of their dance floor instincts behind, the band have markedly improved their songwriting. The lyrics are very much rooted in typical themes of love and relationships but there is a definite charm in Clendenin’s naïve and wide-eyed lyrical approach.
These proficient and poised electro pop songs have contributed to a general blanding out of Lemonade’s sound, a notion underlined upon hearing the functional but uninspiring Sister and the meandering beats of Vivid. At times Diver does lapse into an electro pop comfort zone where you feel could be listening to any number of electronic pop acts. If the trade off between a deeper and more intense form of dance music and the more straightforward melodic pop tracks sometimes feels regressive, it is a minor concern on a record that generally offers far more depth and lucidity to Lemonade’s work.
Diver is a record that manages to sound very contemporary yet retro at the same time. There are echoes of The Weeknd‘ss spaced out RnB and Balam Acab‘s dreamy electronica. As well as these contemporary references there are also clear echoes of 1980s electro pop, primarily the grandiose synth lines of New Order. It is a mix that is by turns beguiling and compelling.
Lemonade have not entirely left behind the propulsive electronica that made their name and there are still a few moments of genuine euphoria. The synth blasts of Whitecaps and the bouncy discombobulated house beat of Big Changes are particular standouts. The latter is a real highlight and its massive sound stands out a mile on a record that is generally soft and restrained.
Closing track Soft Kiss is wonderful way to end the album. A blissed out piece of Friendly Fires-like dreamy electro featuring a superbly soulful vocal from Clendennin, it s a track that perfectly shows off all the lissom charm of Diver’s best moments.
Lemonade’s second album may alienate some of their harder edged electronic audience but the melancholy tinged pop hue they have taken on in Diver shows that they are a band that have no desire to simply restrict their songs to nightclubs and house parties. Rather they are a band who want to form a real lasting connection. Diver only sporadically does this, but this is still an album that shows vast promise.