When “Neptune,” the lead single off of Diver, popped up on the Internet in March of this year, no one really knew what to make of it. At first listen, the new age sounding lead synth and those chilled out organic drums make it sound like something to do yoga to. But the incredibly catchy chorus will pull you in for listen after listen. Prior to this song, Lemonade hadn’t showed very strong ties to the indie-electronic-meets-90s-R&B image that they are now associated with. As far as their back catalogue goes, only “Lifted”, the single off of 2010 EP Pure Moods really shows any semblance to what we see on Diver. Outside of this, Lemonade’s past work blended electronic and noise with all types of world music, making for an eclectic and sometimes jarring musical experience. But with Diver, Lemonade almost completely changes face - not to fit in with the current scene or dumb down their sound, per say. But instead, to take us to relevant realms yet unexplored by bands on the scene today. In doing so, Lemonade has crafted one of the best albums of 2012 so far.
Diver uses two distinct themes to make a refreshing record that distinguishes itself from other electronic efforts we’ve seen this year. Lemonade blends a heavy 90s dance and R&B aesthetic with the tropical textures of their past work to craft a sound that does equal parts throwing back and pushing forward. The pacing of the record is excellent. Lemonade successfully does something different on every single track without ever completely isolating either theme. “Ice Water”, “Whitecaps”, and “Sinead” are probably the best examples of how the two sounds blend. On tracks like “Infinite Style” and “Vivid”, Lemonade even throws in hints at hip-hop. Near the end, Diver gets even more danceable - “Big Changes” is a heavy hitting disco-tinged tune that would feel right at home next to Madonna’s “Vogue” in a DJ set.
Lyrically, Diver is a heavy record about relationship in and out of limbo. “Neptune” is about communication breakdown. “Eye Drops” deals with the anxiety of relational regression. Album closer “Softkiss” (also Diver’s second single) is one of most emotional tracks on the record, despite its clubby feel. “Every little step away makes the longest days. Every little step towards me, these tears evaporate”, sings Clendenin. It’s the big, Hollywood ending that Diver deserves.
It’s fun to see a band grow like Lemonade has. With the music industry as dog-eat-dog as ever nowadays, most people want new bands on the scene to come out pitch perfect with a clean cut sound that they are expected to repeat over and over again until their audience finds something else to listen to. But Lemonade is a fantastic example of why we, as music listeners and lovers, should take the time to watch bands grow and enjoy the process of transformation with them. In Lemonade’s own words, with Diver, “that transformation is complete”. I don’t think anyone can really argue with that, either. Diver is an excellent record and should be seriously competitive for album of the year.
Listen to Diver in full above! Lemonade will be back in Seattle on June 12 at the Barboza. Check out their video for “Neptune” below: